The other day I was editing an interesting piece about e-prescribing in Europe. A lot of processes in both healthcare and the pharma industry, as well as in every other aspect of our lives, are moving to electronic systems and, of course, such systems offer many benefits. Being sceptical, however, I turned to my colleague and asked, “what happens when the system goes wrong?” Because, let’s face it, all electronic systems seem to suffer serious issues at some point.
Ironically, my point was reinforced when the electronic systems in our office went down only an hour later. For the majority of the day, our office was isolated from the outside world: no Internet, email or servers. Even the phones were dead for a while. It seems incredible to think there was once a time when people didn’t use computers and electronic systems. Yesterday, we were completely powerless to do the majority of our normal day-to-day working tasks because everything involves servers and the Internet. Less can be achieved with good old pen and paper.
The e-prescribing article, written by PharmTech Europe’s columnist Nathan Jessop, will be published in our upcoming October issue. Although e-prescribing has gained popularity in North America, uptake in Europe, as a whole, has been slow. E-prescribing has been touted as offering many advantages including eliminating issues relating to illegible handwriting, promoting appropriate drug usage and offering capability to use warning and alert systems to avoid medication errors
But there are also disadvantages to e-prescriptions, such as data entry errors (e.g., clicking on a wrong menu) and the inability to use the system when there is a power cut or a problem with the computer system. There is also significant concern about data security — I touched upon this subject a little while ago in a blog about hacking.
These issues are not unique to e-prescribing as they impact many electronic systems, especially those using networks and the internet. One of the big challenges is trying to address these potential problems without adding costs or annoyances for the user!
I’m not against electronic systems; on the contrary, I’m fascinated by electronics and technology, but there is a part of me that asks whether we are too reliant on such systems. My old PC died without any warning a few years ago, obliterating the hard drive in the process. No repair shop could fix it or accurately recover the data. Fortunately, I had a back up.
I’m sure the pharma industry has backs up too, but problems can and will happen.
In both Pharmaceutical Technology and Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, we have a column called Agent-in-Place, which is made up of your anonymous stories, mishaps and blunders from the pharma industry. If any of you would like to share your experience with electronic systems and IT errors then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be curious to know how pharma deals with issues like this.