Further extension to image-based prescribing

Jolyon Attwooll

14/12/2021 4:58:25 PM

The temporary measure was due to end this year but has been left open to prescribers as ‘an emergency option’ for another three months.

A pharmacist taking stock with a digital tablet.
More than 98% of pharmacists now issue and dispense electronic prescriptions.

The option to use image-based prescribing has once again been extended.
Introduced at the beginning of the pandemic to coincide with the rollout of COVID-related telehealth options, image-based prescribing will now continue until the end of March 2022, having been due to finish on 31 December.
The Department of Health (DoH) said the extension was given to ‘provide an emergency option for exceptional circumstances where electronic prescribing or other mechanisms cannot be used, particularly where communities continue to be affected by statewide COVID-19 lockdowns’.
Options available prior to the pandemic will also continue after the arrangements for image-based prescribing end.
While the college has supported previous extensions to image-based prescribing, the rapid uptake of electronic prescribing has led RACGP President Dr Karen Price to question the need for a further extension in correspondence with the DoH seen by newsGP.
Image-based prescribing was introduced as an alternative to allow electronic prescribing to take hold at the beginning of the pandemic. It followed the introduction of telehealth and is designed as an option when there are challenges in issuing traditional face-to-face prescriptions.
However, recent statistics from the DoH suggest that the majority of GPs (83%) are now using electronic prescribing, with most general practices having software to facilitate the process.
Likewise, more than 98% of pharmacists also now issue and dispense electronic prescriptions, according to the DoH.
It means the need for images of prescriptions that are faxed, emailed or sent by text message have reduced dramatically, with only non-GP specialists reportedly lagging behind.
In July, newsGP reported that around 11.3 million original and repeat electronic prescriptions had been issued since the system was launched, according to data collated by the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA).
That has now more than doubled with more than 28 million electronic prescriptions recorded since the system began across more than 31,000 prescribers, including general practices and nurse practitioners, according to the latest statistics.
A feature of electronic prescribing that has not yet had as much take-up is the Active Script List (ASL), which is designed to help patients manage multiple prescriptions.
The RACGP has advocated for the Federal Government to provide support for prescribers to email electronic prescribing tokens directly to pharmacies to assist patients without smart phones, as well as those with limited digital literacy or those isolating at home.
It is also calling for further work to be done to establish an effective ongoing funding model which does not impose any supplementary costs to general practice or elsewhere.
A Government subsidy allowing general practices to prescribe via SMS without additional costs has been extended until June 2022.
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