Electronic Signatures for Drug Shipments

Jeannine Mulliner, June 25, 2015

In the e-signature report from Forrester Research entitled E-Signatures - A Few Simple Best Practices Drive Adoption, analyst Craig Le Clair gives examples of how e-signature adoption is moving beyond financial services. One of the use cases he mentions is the distribution of narcotics and controlled substances through the pharmaceutical supply chain:

"Signing off on drug shipments and deliveries throughout the supply chain is a requirement, and OneSpan, another leading e-signature provider, is in development with several customers to make it electronic. Doctors, hospitals and manufacturers will increasingly require a trail of electronic evidence."

E-Signatures with comprehensive audit trail capabilities are extremely valuable for the heavily regulated pharmaceutical industry. Without a reliable audit trail relating to both the document in question and the process used to capture signatures, it is difficult for any of the parties involved to prove compliance. Because the risks of non-compliance are so significant (operations can literally be shut down overnight, Federal criminal charges can be laid, etc.), there is an understandable tendency to seek out e-signature providers with deep expertise automating processes in regulated markets. For more than 20 years, OneSpan has delivered a digital signing solution that:

This makes it easy to prove regulatory compliance, while also removing bottlenecks and helping to modernize business processes.



Pharmaceutical Retailer
In 2013, the OneSpan Sign service was deployed to all of this chain’s 1,200+ retail locations. Electronic signatures are used by pharmacists in each store to sign purchase orders of narcotics and controlled substances. By e-signing the purchase orders using the click-to-sign method, pharmacists are able to accelerate delivery of pharmaceuticals while also strengthening regulatory compliance.

Prior to using e-signatures, pharmacists were already placing orders electronically with the distribution center (DC), but once the e-order was placed, they would have to print out a paper copy of the P.O., sign it in ink and mail it to the DC. If the DC did not receive the signed P.O. within five days, it was not permitted to ship any further orders to the store until the paperwork was in good order. The immediacy of electronic signatures solved the problem. According to a supply chain manager, "By the end of the first day of Go-Live, 83% of our user base was able to easily navigate to the application and setup their usernames and passwords to start signing purchase orders."

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Pharmaceutical Distributor
This distributor also uses the OneSpan Sign cloud service to automate ordering of narcotics and controlled substances from manufacturers. Authorized signers use OneSpan Sign to click-to-sign and electronically send purchase orders to manufacturers. This eliminates courier fees for shipping paper purchase orders. It also eliminates errors such as missing signatures.

The ability to accelerate drug delivery to pharmacy retailers in a secure and compliant way is a significant competitive differentiator in the distribution business, since the end customer’s health depends on timely receipt of medication.

"[We are using OneSpan Sign for] Controlled substance PO signatures. We have centralized the process and greatly improved the turnaround time, as well, we have much better reporting and control," says a senior systems analyst.


Pharmaceutical Purchasing Group
This customer is the purchasing and distribution arm for a network of pharmacies. It operates under tight regulations, where pharmaceutical products are tracked through every stage of the supply chain. Before OneSpan Sign, staff manually captured paper signatures for chain of custody purposes. This required having the original documentation going to the customer, making and maintaining copies for backup, and matching the copy and original once returned. When pharmacies did not return the original paperwork, employees needed to chase down the status of paperwork and follow up on the return of documents with wet signatures.

Once OneSpan Sign was integrated into their business process, pharmacy customers could complete their part of the process in a single click online. This resulted in a reduction in staff hours and greater visibility over the process. According to project’s executive sponsor, "OneSpan Sign greatly reduces the amount of paper that we produce for printing and tracking narcotic orders from our pharmacy customers. Tracking completed documents has been streamlined and we have seen a huge reduction in staff hours required for filing returned narcotic signatures."

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For 20 years, Jeannine has been writing about technology and how to apply it to solve everyday challenges. In her role as Content Director at OneSpan, Jeannine leads a team of writers and content developers focused on helping financial institutions and other organizations gain value from security