Why do we need an Elctronic Quality Management System (eQMS)?

Why Do You Need an Electronic Quality Management System (eQMS)?

by Alicia Whitney |
Jul 12, 2021 |
This question is one of the most asked during my last 3 years practicing as a consultant in the life sciences industry. Here is how I respond to the most common objections, explaining the multiple benefits clients can take advantage of when working with an electronic Quality Management System (eQMS).

1. Increase the quality of your processes while saving time and working remotely if needed

“Paper processes have always worked fine for us…” is a common objection when it comes to discuss introducing an eQMS. Yes, paper is an improvement over previous tracking methods: memory, stone tablet, bamboo. However computers can be trusted as well , and are quite a bit better than these tracking methods. Plus, there are additional capabilities that an electronic system provides. For example, the eQMS can include validation checks to improve the proportion of right-first-time entries, requiring fewer revisions and eradicating errors commonly encountered with paper processes.

One of the most valid reasons to move away from paper processes surfaced in the recent, sudden need to shift to remote work. Some work must be completed on-site (such as any true manufacturing related tasks), however supporting actions for these tasks may be handled remotely. Implementing an eQMS can support these tasks in a more streamlined, compliant, and user-friendly manner than any of the ad hoc solutions that likely had to be brought in place in short order to support the recent in-office interruption.

Finally, eQMS solutions can also save time for the end users; pre-populated picklists, system-calculated dates, and the ability to clone existing records, are all basic out-of-the-box actions in the typical eQMS. Once implemented, the eQMS will free up your users to think about the actual work that humans are required to complete, like the five-whys of any quality event. Instead of issuing tracking numbers for each event, all of the eQMS solutions are able to assign unique IDs to records right when they are created. Manually managing Change Control numbers with a logbook will be an easily forgotten memory.

“If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen.” How often have we heard that mantra? Electronic systems have benefits of requiring users to enter certain information or select pre-defined values for a field. Combined with the standard audit trail functionality included in the eQMS solutions, traceability for any action logged within the eQMS is a snap.

2. Guaranteed security, back-up and availability of your business critical data

“Storage of paper records is not a problem…” is what I often hear my clients say. Paper records need to be retained for years past the expiration date of batches produced, and need to be held on-site or at a storage supplier who needs to be qualified, paid, and regularly audited. Even when the most careful approach is taken, incidents still can occur and there is no path to regaining those original documents.

Some businesses rely on SharePoint or file directory storage for maintaining documentation instead of paper records. Certainly this is an improvement over the physical paper copy, however managing access to the different SharePoint locations and the unmitigated disorganization of end users creating their own folder structure or guessing where a document should be stored can create a nightmare scenario for upgrades, re-organizations, or the divestiture or acquisition of specific areas in the business.

eQMS Systems provide a level of confidence in the ability to maintain themselves without the need of an additional disaster-proof location. Server rooms are already part of the standard disaster recovery plans and backups are taken regularly to ensure business continuity. Alternatively, the leading providers of eQMS Systems for the Life Sciences industry all offer hosted options for your environment, with insurances and assurances that your data will be secure, backed-up, and available to you whenever you need access.

3. Accelerate Annual Product Reviews (APR) or Product Quality Reviews (PQR)

“Tracking, Trending, and reporting using paper records is well-managed in a spreadsheet…” – another frequent misconception in this context. Preparing Annual Product Review (APRs) or Product Quality Review (PQR) with a paper eQMS is time consuming. Gathering real-time data to support business decisions can be challenging.

Reporting has never been easier using an eQMS. One-click reporting solutions that are highly configurable and easy to set up by business administrators can cut through the data to help you know where the holdup is in your processes. Systems also provide the option to send automated emails to the interested parties, which can even be sent to external partners helping with supplier management and transparency of identifiying existing or potential issues.

Trending is also easier in an electronic system. Rules can be set up to notify specific users/groups or even take actions on behalf of a human, like opening an Investigation for multiple Out of Specification (OOS ) events logged for a specific lot of product.

4. Meeting regulatory compliance expectations

“Data Integrity isn’t a concern on paper…” – Have you also used this argument? If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen. Paper processes can be rife with errors, or omitted data. Electronic systems compel the users to enter the necessary information before the user is allowed to progress to the next step. Effective system design combined with OOTB audit trail functionality in the eQMS solutions alleviates many paper process data integrity issues before they can occur. The audit trail is presented as a robust report, including all of the applicable data about who made a decision to move forward and when the decision was made and what the justification for making the decision. The Audit Trail functionality has been developed as a part of the best practices to meet regulatory compliance expectations. And as such, auditors are more familiar with the solutions and less time is spent looking into the functioning of the system.

In summary, implementing an eQMS for your compliant life sciences business provides a number of beneficial results. Value in the implementation of and eQMS will be found in greater efficiency, fewer errors, and major improvements in reporting. Beyond these improvements, many more opportunities are available including integrations with other systems, improvements in user access and manging user acces, and the potential to incorporate paper processes from other parts of the business. Please find more information on our website.

About the author

Alicia Whitney has been working with compliant, validated computer systems since 2010 when she started her career at a small pharmaceutical company in Pennsylvania, USA. Collaboratively implementing and validating document management, quality management, and inventory management systems, she has gained knowledge and experience in many areas of the pharmaceutical industry. Since joining fme Life Sciences in 2018, Ms. Whitney has continued to provide an experienced perspective when gathering requirements and guiding assessments for client implementations. Ms. Whitney continues to build on her experience, now holding certifications on TrackWise Digital QMS and VeevaVault Platform.