One of the software companies behind the current trial of electronic prescriptions has warned pharmacies to protect themselves against cyber security risks as the sector prepares for the introduction of ‘ePrescriptions’ later this year.
The trial, which began in May, is currently underway in 17 communities across Australia, including in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, with further regions expected to come online with the trial shortly.
And while it will revolutionise the delivery of prescriptions, software company Fred IT Group has warned about the cyber risks associated with the new delivery system.
“We have been looking forward to Australia’s move to electronic prescriptions for more than a decade,” said pharmacist and CEO of Fred, Paul Naismith.
He said electronic prescriptions would strengthen medication safety checks for pharmacies and patients, provide added flexibility for patients and reduce paper handling for pharmacies.
“Electronic prescriptions will also mean that pharmacies are working with larger amounts of digital data, and that data will be increasingly important to their business continuity,” Mr Naismith said.
“To prepare for this move, we urge pharmacies to pay attention to their cyber security protection.”
He said pharmacies had become increasingly aware of the risks of cybercrime since the introduction of the Notifiable Data Breach Scheme and mandatory reporting of cyber attacks in 2018.
“The health sector has become one of the main sectors affected by cyber attacks (along with the finance sector). In 2019, health service providers reported 105 of the total 289 data breaches in the first half of the year.”
“The surge in reported cyber attacks of the last two years is only the tip of the iceberg, as many attempts go unreported. It is important that pharmacies factor cyber security into their planning so that they can focus on business as usual, whilst remaining confident that their pharmacy is protected against the potentially disastrous implications of data loss that can result from a cyber attack.”
Andrew McManus, who manages Fred’s cyber protection service ‘Fred Protect’ says it is important that pharmacies actively consider their cyber protection at times such as this when their business is experiencing change.
“We know that cyber criminals use periods of change, such as the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, to actively seek out new vulnerabilities,” said Mr McManus.
“As Australia moves to electronic prescriptions, pharmacies will be dealing with a significant transition to workflow and business continuity. On top of that, they will be managing increased amounts of digital data.
“Taken together, these two factors highlight the need for pharmacies to pay attention to cyber security considerations as they prepare for electronic prescriptions”.
He said Fred Protect was a real time cyber protection service that has been developed in Australia to assist pharmacies in protecting against the risk of cyber crime.