Electronic Prescriptions - For Dispensers

 Important reminder: You are still required to adhere to the National Health Act and relevant State or Territory regulations when prescribing and supplying medicines using an electronic prescription. 

Electronic prescriptions will improve medicines safety and provide new options and convenience for patients and their medicine supply. This initiative is a key priority within the National Digital Health Strategy.

The Commonwealth Department of Health (the Department) is leading the work to enable electronic prescriptions in partnership with the Australian Digital Health Agency and Services Australia. The Department is also working with State and Territory governments to ensure electronic prescriptions can be made available across Australia.

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.

What are Electronic Prescriptions?

Electronic prescriptions will not be mandatory; patients will have a choice to receive either an electronic or a paper prescription from their prescriber (but not both). Electronic prescriptions will continue to support a patient’s right to choose their prescriber and pharmacy to supply their medicines.

Both electronic and paper prescriptions will need to comply with the relevant Commonwealth and State and Territory legislation requirements.

To dispense electronic prescriptions, you will need the capability built into your clinical information system. For more information, please see How to prepare your pharmacy for electronic prescriptions on this page, and contact your software provider directly.

Two models for Electronic Prescriptions

There will be two models available to support electronic prescriptions, which include the Token Model and the Active Script List Model. Electronic prescriptions will be introduced in a steady and managed approach from the end of May via electronic prescribing communities of interest. Only the Token Model will be available initially, with progressive roll-out to include the Active Script List Model expected to be available from the end of September 2020.

Token Model: The solution for the delivery of electronic prescribing 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.

A token is not a legal prescription, but it can be used by an authorised pharmacy to unlock the legal prescription.

Ensure your pharmacy is connected to a Prescription Delivery Service through a Prescription Exchange Service (eRx or MediSecure) so you can access and dispense your patient’s electronic prescriptions.

Active Script List Model: By the end of September 2020, more functionality will be available in addition to the token.

Under this model pharmacists will be able to access a patient’s electronic prescription by retrieving it from an Active Script List (ASL). The patient must prove their identity to the pharmacist.

The ASL is expected to overcome the issue of lost tokens and assist medication management and adherence, especially for patients who are using multiple medicines.

Benefits of Electronic Prescribing

Benefits of electronic prescribing extend to the patient, healthcare provider and more broadly at a system level. These include:

  • Reducing the administrative burden for healthcare providers and organisations (e.g. more effective management of prescription refill requests).
  • Reducing prescription and transcription errors due to improved legibility of prescriptions.
  • Providing an opportunity to protect community members and healthcare providers from exposure to infectious diseases (e.g. COVID-19) and ensure continuity of care.
  • Maintaining patient privacy and integrity of personal information.

    How to prepare your pharmacy for Electronic Prescriptions

  • Ensure your pharmacy has a Healthcare Provider Identifier-Organisation (HPI-O) and is connected to the HI service. This is a core requirement for electronic prescribing. Information about how to register your organisation for a HPI-O is available here.
  • Ensure your pharmacy is connected to an open Prescription Delivery Service via a prescription exchange service. Existing prescription exchange services include eRx and MediSecure.
  • Update your patients’ and their carers’ contact details on file (mobile phone number / email).
  • Subscribe to your software provider newsletters and correspondence
  • Stay up to date with communication from clinical peak organisations
  • Check to ensure you know any legal rules that are specific to your state or territory such as the management of controlled medicines.
  • Keep your staff informed about electronic prescribing and how they may respond to patient’s questions about electronic prescriptions.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Are there different State and Territory regulations for electronic prescriptions?

The same regulations for prescribing and supplying medicines exist for both paper and electronic prescriptions. Clinicians are required to adhere to the National Health Act and relevant State or Territory regulations when prescribing and supplying medicines using an electronic prescription. This is particularly important for controlled medicines. Please contact your relevant jurisdiction for more information.

Q: Do I need to notify my prescription software provider that I wish to move to electronic prescribing or will this be automatic?

Confirm with your software provider if they are progressing electronic prescribing capability.

Q: What do I need to do to take electronic prescriptions?

  1. Ensure your pharmacy has a Healthcare Provider Identifier-Organisation (HPI-O) and is connected to the HI service. This is a core requirement for electronic prescribing. Information about how to register your organisation for a HPI-O is available here.
  2. Ensure your pharmacy is connected to an open Prescription Delivery Service via a prescription exchange service. Existing prescription exchange services include eRx and MediSecure.

Q: Why is the ASL not available immediately?

The ASL is a more complex technical build and as such is taking longer than the token model to build. It will be available from late 2020.

Q: How is the information in the token secure if it is sent via a “normal” email?

The QR Code holds an identifier which is a key used by the Prescription Delivery Service (PDS) to pull the prescription details from the database. The identifier is meaningless unless scanned in a PDS with the required connectivity and authorising processes in place to check for a legitimate and legal request to the information.

Q: How does the pharmacy manage workflow with queued up scripts?

In addition to upgrades to prescribing and dispensing clinical information systems to adopt electronic prescribing functionality, software developers are also progressing queuing software that will enable pharmacies to manage their electronic and paper prescription workflow.

Q: How does a pharmacy receive the token from the patient?

The patient takes it in or can forward the SMS or email to the pharmacy. The pharmacy then scans the token which allows for retreival of the electronic prescription from the PDS.

Q: What should I do if the customer thinks I have dispensed the incorrect medicine?

Troubleshooting incorrect medicines would be similar to what happens with paper prescriptions (e.g. a phone call made to the prescriber by the pharmacist or patient to rectify).

Q: How does the patient get a repeat electronic prescription?

Once an electronic prescription is dispensed, the initial token can no longer be used. If the initial token had repeats on it, a new token is issued by the pharmacy for the repeat at the time of dispense and this is sent to the patient.

Q: Can I hold the electronic prescriptions for my patient as I do now for paper prescriptions?

The ASL will allow you to provide this same service to your patients.

Q: Do pharmacies need new scanners for QR codes?

The bar code is the same as currently appears on paper prescriptions. This depends on the capability of your existing scanners.