Should Singaporeans worry about electronic health systems?

In the space of months, our health database was hacked and, now, mislabelled medicine has been handed out to hundreds of patients (800 patients given mislabelled drug dosages, double the earlier estimate; Sept 6).

With the Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), which is responsible for both the above-mentioned major glitches, also managing the National Electronic Health Records, we all have the right to be nervous about vendor competency, professionalism, data security and patient confidentiality.

IHiS claims that a simple system update caused the latest errors.

One wonders what calamity would have befallen the medical system had the network required more sophisticated and complicated manipulations.

We still remember the Y2K bug, which cost an estimated US$100 billion to fix. Meanwhile, good old paper, pen and eraser solved the problem easily and cheaply. There is a lesson for all here.

Yes, Singaporeans are well-educated and savvy about medical prescriptions, and so far no serious overdosing has been reported. All it takes is one person to overdose based on a flawed prescription, and a whole morass of litigation will follow.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2018, with the headline 'Should Singaporeans worry about electronic health systems?'. Print Edition | Subscribe