Yet another glitch in technology in our healthcare sector – have we learnt lessons from the data breach?

Reports that more than 800 patients from 104 clinics have been affected by a software glitch concerning medicine dosage labels is yet another example of Singapore potentially rushing ahead to be “smart” before it really is smart enough. With our focus always on efficiency, we may have put doing things fast above doing things properly.

While doing things quickly is important, doing things effectively is even more critical. What is the point of doing something rapidly if it is wrong and needs to be redone? Or worst, causes damage that affects real people and real lives?

This glitch that caused wrong dosages of medication to be prescribed is hot on the heels of the spectacular data breach that occurred in SingHealth. As most readers will be aware, this cyber breach caused the private data of 1.5 million people to be stolen including that of the Prime Minister of Singapore. Not only is this a huge embarrassment, it also flags a far more serious issue – how secure is how data and how easy is it to be misused for nefarious purposes? This is especially the case given that the attack is suspected to be state-sponsored.

A glitch in medicine dosage could potentially have far-reaching consequences on patients who may inadvertently ingest the wrong amounts of medication with disastrous consequences. Given that this is a glitch that has also happened in the health industry, should we perhaps question if we are pushing our medical sectors to be “smart” too fast too soon?

This is now 2 counts of malfunction in the space of months in our health sectors concerning technology. Each count of malfunction is serious. Investigations into the data breach is not even complete and we now have a situation which can potentially result in patient injury or even death! Will the Ministry of Health now look to slow down and take stock before rushing ahead with these new technological changes?

While I understand the need for all sectors including the health sectors to embrace the latest technology but with 2 major glitches happening so close to each other, I wonder if we are operationally ready to embrace these changes. Have there been enough checks and trial done? Were the changes rushed through to meet an arbitrary deadline to please the higher-ups?

I am not criticising the need to upgrade. I am merely sounding caution. The last thing we want is for yet another problem to arise due to our unnecessary haste.

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