A Software Error at Pharmacies Resulted in Incorrect Information on Medications
Our everyday life is hardly imaginable now without software solutions. Retail POS systems, medical equipment, manufacturing machines and so on: A large number of devices work via software solutions and make everyday work easier. But what if the software is faulty and even endangers human life? This is exactly what happened recently in Austrian pharmacies.
Software Breakdown in the Austrian Online Health Portal
The electronic health record ELGA is a health portal in Austria that digitally displays patient data. Treating doctors, hospitals and care facilities use the portal to save current patient information such as diagnoses, treatments and medication dosages. Patients, in turn, can view their health data after registering with ELGA (e-findings), and pharmacies use the health portal for electronic medication (e-medication). Unfortunately, the software at Austrian pharmacies did not work as it should.
Instead of taking over the medication from the doctors, the software displayed incorrect dosage recommendations. "Pharmacies use private software products. Due to an error in the software from a provider, the display of dosage information deviated from the medical prescription,” writes the Standard quoting a statement from the Chamber of Pharmacists and Doctors, the umbrella association of social insurance carriers sent to the Austrian press agency (APA) Elga GmbH and the pharmaceutical salary fund.
A Blessing in Disguise for Patients
This story about Austrian pharmacies has a happy ending because luckily employees noticed the software error early on. Around 33 pharmacies in the Vienna area were affected and immediately contacted the patients and doctors. Nevertheless: If the software glitch had not been noticed so quickly, more than 1.000 people could potentially have sustained physical harm as a result of incorrect medication dosage recommendations. In this case, the pharmacies would certainly have held the software manufacturers from the private sector liable.
Risk of Claims for Compensation for IT Freelancers and IT Companies
Regardless of whether you run a company or work as a freelancer developing software solutions for companies: The case with the faulty software in Austrian pharmacies shows quite clearly that even a small mistake can have a major impact and cause a lot of damage. The claims for damages against software developers can be correspondingly extensive when this happens. A mistake in the programming is legally known as defective performance, in which case the victims would be the affected patients who could claim damages from the pharmacies.
The pharmacies in turn have a so-called claim for compensation against the software manufacturer. The software manufacturer is, of course, liable through the pharmacies, even if they don't have a direct contractual relationship with the pharmacy customers or patients. With Professional Indemnity Insurance software developers can protect themselves against such claims for compensation and the associated claims for damages. Of course, direct claims against software developers are also insured.
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