Changes have been made to Commonwealth legislation to recognise an electronic prescription as a legal form to allow medicine supply. This provides prescribers and patients with an alternative to paper prescriptions. Paper prescriptions will still be available.
Electronic prescriptions will not fundamentally change existing prescribing and dispensing processes. It provides patients with greater choice and patients can still choose which pharmacy they attend to fill their prescription.
Under the National Health Plan for COVID-19, the Australian Government has accelerated the delivery and electronic prescriptions will be introduced in a steady and managed approach from the end of May 2020. The implementation of electronic prescriptions will help protect people most at-risk from COVID-19.
A significant amount of work has already been done to ensure that necessary upgrades to both pharmacy and prescriber software can be achieved quickly.
Electronic prescriptions are an alternative to paper prescriptions which will allow people convenient access to their medicines and will lessen the risk of infection being spread in general practice waiting rooms and at community pharmacies.
Implementation- electronic prescribing communities of interest
For software developers
The solution for the delivery of electronic prescriptions has been accelerated and will be progressively available from the end of May 2020 and will see a unique QR barcode known as a ‘token’ sent via an app (if your patient has one), SMS or email.
The token will be scanned by your pharmacist as a key to unlock the electronic prescription from an encrypted and secure electronic prescription delivery service.
If you have any repeats of a prescription, a new token will be sent to you when the prescription is dispensed. You will need to keep the token to send to your pharmacy when you need to get the repeat filled.
Active Script List
By the end of September 2020, more functionality will be available and in addition to the token, there will also be an option for your pharmacy to have a list of your active prescriptions in their software, so you don’t have to forward it on.
To get your medicines you will need to prove your identity to the pharmacist and provide consent for the pharmacist to view your prescriptions.
Steps to take in preparation for using an electronic prescription
- Ensure your address, email address and mobile number are up to date with your doctor and pharmacy.
- Check that your pharmacy can take an electronic prescription and are delivering medicines.
Electronic prescription webinars
Australians will soon have the option to choose electronic prescriptions as an alternative to paper prescriptions. Learn about upcoming events and webinars here.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is an electronic prescription?
An electronic prescription is a prescription that is electronically generated and sent to your mobile phone or computer. You can use an electronic prescription, in the same way as a paper prescription, to get medicines from your pharmacy.
Q: Can I still get a paper prescription if I want one?
Yes, paper prescriptions are still available. You can choose to have either a paper or an electronic prescription.
Q: How do I get my electronic prescription?
When your doctor writes your electronic prescription they will send you a 'Token' which is an electronic message sent to your mobile phone or computer
Q: What will my token look like?
It will be a SMS or email message (or in an app if you have one) with a barcode and some information about your medicine.
Q: What is the benefit of an electronic prescription?
Electronic prescriptions will give people convenient access to their medicines and will improve patient safety by reducing the risk of transcription errors.
They can also lessen the risk of infection being spread in general practice waiting rooms and at community pharmacies as they are sent directly to the patient and can be forwarded to the pharmacy.
Q: What technology do I need for electronic prescriptions?
You will need a mobile phone or a computer.
Q: Do I need My Health Record to use electronic prescriptions?
You do not need My Health Record to use electronic prescriptions.
Q: Is the electronic prescription system secure?
Electronic prescriptions must meet a high level of privacy and security. Your prescription is protected and cannot be accessed by anyone until it is unlocked at your pharmacy when you give them your token.
Q: Are there any medicines that can't have an electronic prescription issued?
There are currently no restrictions as to which medicines can be prescribed using an electronic prescription.
Q: Will I get a separate token for each medicine I am prescribed?
You will get a separate token for each medicine you are prescribed.
If you have repeats on your prescription, your pharmacy will send you a new token for your next repeat. You will need to give the new token to the pharmacist when it is time to get your medicine.
Q: How do I know which token has been used to get my medicines?
Your pharmacy can verify which token has been used. Once you have your medicine you should delete the token that was used to get that medicine.
Q: What happens if I lose my token?
If you lose your token, you will need to ask your doctor to cancel the electronic prescription and issue a new one. The doctor will send you a new token.
Q: What is the Active Script List (ASL)?
The ASL is a list of the current medicines that can be supplied to you. You can manage it yourself or give permission for your pharmacist to see it. It is expected to ready by the end of 2020.
Q: How do I get my medicines?
You can go to the pharmacy and they will use your token with the bar code to unlock the electronic prescription and supply your medicines.
Q: Who can collect my medicines?
As is currently the case with paper prescriptions, a family member or agent may collect your medicines for you. You will need to send them the token with the barcode so they can give it to the pharmacy to unlock the electronic prescription.
Q: Do I need to go to the pharmacy to get my medicine?
Check with your pharmacy to see if they do home delivery and if you can forward your token to them. If so, there is no need to go into the pharmacy.
Q: Can I go to any pharmacy with an electronic prescription?
Most pharmacies will be able to give you your medicine from an electronic prescription. If you want to make sure you should check with your pharmacy directly.
Q: When can I start getting electronic prescriptions?
Doctors and pharmacists will need to upgrade their computer software to be able to write and receive electronic prescriptions. This will be progressively available from the end of May 2020.
Q: How do I know the SMS or email is not a scam?
You can check that you have received your token before you leave the doctor’s office or finish your telehealth consultation, so you know it is from your doctor.
Q: How do I make sure that my doctor and pharmacy have the correct email address, mailing address and phone number?
Your GP practice will usually check with you that they have your correct details when you arrive for your doctor’s appointment.
If using telehealth, check your details are correct when you book online.
You can also check with your doctor when they issue your electronic prescription that all your details are correct.
Q: Can my doctor send the token directly to the pharmacy instead of to me?
The doctor can only send your token to you.
Q: How can I get electronic prescriptions if I don't have any technology?
You can ask the doctor to send the token to a friend or family member if you do not have access to SMS or email. They will need to provide the token to the pharmacy to get your medicines.
Q: My token was sent to the wrong number. Can it be resent to the correct one?
The token cannot be resent. You should check that your doctor has sent you the token before you leave the GP practice or finish your telehealth consultation to ensure it has been sent to the correct number.
Q: Are all doctors using electronic prescriptions?
By the end of May 2020, it is expected that most doctors and pharmacies will be able to use electronic prescriptions.
Q: How do I find out if my doctor or pharmacist are using electronic prescriptions?
Most pharmacies will be able to give you your medicine from an electronic prescription. If you want to make sure your pharmacy can, you should check with your pharmacy directly and ask if they can provide your medicine to you from an electronic prescription.
Q: Who do I contact for more information?
- Contact the Department of Health with questions about the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) legislative framework for electronic prescriptions.
- Contact the Australian Digital Health Agency with questions about the electronic prescriptions technical framework.
- Contact Services Australia with questions about the:
- PBS or Repatriation Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits (RPBS) claim systems
- Healthcare identifiers service
Q: If I get an electronic prescription, do I then need to get one every time I need a prescription?
No, the choice of whether you get an electronic or a paper prescription is always yours.
Q: If I get an electronic prescription will the repeats also be electronic?
Yes, all repeats issued with the initial electronic prescription will also be electronic. Any repeats will have new tokens issued once the prescription is dispensed. You will need to keep the new token for the next time you need the medicine.