Knowledge Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry

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Knowledge Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Introduction
The study of Knowledge Management is a process that has been researched for centuries by western philosophers and traditional theorists, however it is only until recently that knowledge management has been the main focus for many organisations. Many have said that it was the publishing of Karl Wiig’s, “knowledge management foundations” (1993), that sparked the huge interest in knowledge management and nearly two decades on KM is now considered as an essential tool for companies to improve their performance and adaptability. [1] Not only this but the concept of knowledge has been regarded as a businesses most precious asset and highly critical in keeping a firm competitive. [2] This study will look at the knowledge management of one of the most Knowledge intensive industries in the world, the pharmaceutical industry, looking at, comparing and criticising the different strategies that are used within the industry.

The pharmaceutical industry is rapidly growing and rapidly evolving , with organisations constantly investing in their research and development departments for the development of new and valuable explicit information. In 2007 €6,525 million was spent on R+D in the UK for the pharmaceutical market, showing that firms invest large sums of money in this knowledge intensive industry. [3]

Pharmacy as an enterprise system
The Pharmaceutical Industry is sort of like a “community of practice” (CoP) where all the organisations share a common interest in medicine, working together to promote the acquisition and sharing of knowledge, with a common goal of providing the “best practice” for the public. [4] It is clear that the industry is heavily dependent on using IT in storing and accessing information. Since the introduction web 2.0 there has been a rapid increase in the use of enterprise systems across the industry. An enterprise system allows for data to be identified, captured and embedded in software to be accessed by all organisations within the industry. [5] A clear example of this comes from a professional body called the department of health, this body stores explicit data on the internet in a PDF called the “green book”, this can be accessed by any member of the public, as well as any organisation. The book provides the latest information on vaccines and vaccination procedures for all vaccine preventable diseases. [6] Not only is the book accessible via the web but also a hard copy of the book has been distributed to immunisation health professionals around the country, making it very easy for any pharmacy to find the information it needs. What makes this store of information so reliable and valuable to organisations is that it updates itself with new editions from information shared between different pharmacists, adding new vaccines etc. This type of knowledge management system is effective for this industry and can be better explained using Dalkir’s knowledge management cycle: [7]

As it shows, knowledge is captured by different organisations through the use of research and development, this knowledge is then assessed and shared with organisations and pharmacies all over the country via the use of the “green book”. Pharmacy’s then use this knowledge to purchase the right medicine and vaccinations to sell to the public. The update part of the life cycle comes in the introduction of new editions brining new information.

There is a sense of a “mini community” within this management system, where the role of culture is valued quite highly as a knowledge sharing environment is created and designed so firms and organisations can share their information. [8] However one of the main drawbacks that comes with this knowledge management system is that it does hinder competitiveness. Larry Prusak (1996) said “The only thing that gives an organization a competitive edge – the only thing that is sustainable – is what it knows, how it uses...
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