Pharmacy cyber security checks vital in preparing for electronic prescriptions


Fred IT Group has urged pharmacies to actively protect against cyber security risk as the sector prepares for the introduction of electronic prescriptions in Australia

“We have been looking forward to Australia’s move to electronic prescriptions for more than a decade,” says Paul Naismith, pharmacist and CEO of Fred.

“Electronic prescriptions further strengthen medication safety checks for pharmacies and their patients, but will also provide added flexibility for patients and reduce paper handling for pharmacy.

“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. To prepare for this move, we urge pharmacies to pay attention to their cyber security protection.”

He says pharmacy has become increasingly aware of the risks of cybercrime as a result of the introduction of the Notifiable Data Breach Scheme and mandatory reporting of cyber attacks in 2018. In the two years since the scheme was introduced:

  • Australia has recorded one reported cybercrime every 10 minutes 
  • The average cost of a data breach for a business has been $276,323
  • 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 (36%) in the first half of the year.

Andrew McManus, who manages Fred’s cyber protection service, called Fred Protect, says it is important that pharmacy businesses actively consider their cyber protection at times such as this when their business is experiencing change.

According to Mr McManus, “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.

“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.”

Fred Protect is a real time cyber protection service that has been developed to help all Australian pharmacies protect against the risk of cyber crime. It includes software and hardware protection, risk assessment, training, and incident response guides. 

According to Paul Naismith, “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.

“Cyber security has become an important area of compliance for pharmacy. Our industry faces the same responsibilities to notify of data breaches that other businesses face. Quality Care 2020 also requires that pharmacies are taking action in cyber security. These changes highlight the importance that pharmacies stay across this increasing area of risk.

“We urge pharmacies to run security audits and to actively think about their processes for protecting against cybercrime.”

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