Electronic prescribing now available across Melbourne

Matt Woodley

17/08/2020 4:06:19 PM

The long-delayed rollout has been prioritised in Victoria in response to the state’s COVID-19 outbreak.

Checking phone in pharmacy
Practices and pharmacies in other areas of Australia are being advised to prepare for a broader rollout by getting software ready and participating in training opportunities.

A decision to expedite the rollout in Melbourne was made last week at a meeting between representatives of the RACGP, the Pharmacy Guild, the Department of Health (DoH) and the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA).
Dr Rob Hosking, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Practice Technology and Management (REC–PTM), was at the meeting. He told newsGP electronic prescribing (ePrescribing) will be ‘much more efficient’ than the temporary image-based system that is due to expire in September.
‘[Instead of sending a fax] when GPs are prescribing, they’ll be able to send the “token” or the QR code to the patient directly, either on their phone through SMS or through email,’ he said.
‘What we’re trying to encourage is for the GP to get confirmation from the patient during the consultations – whether it’s telehealth or face-to-face – that the email or SMS has come through.
‘The patient can then take the QR code it generates either as a printout or on their phone or other device to the pharmacy, the pharmacist will then scan the barcode, and that’ll draw down the ePrescription from the prescription exchange service.’
However, Dr Hosking said the system is dependent on both general practices and pharmacies possessing updated medical software, while the pharmacy itself has to be physically set up to receive the prescriptions.
‘That’s the bit that was holding things up – some of the pharmacies weren’t enabled,’ he said.
‘My understanding is that all of the software [required for ePrescriptions] is available. It’s a matter of whether the pharmacy has gone through the process of updating their software and training their staff.
‘We need pharmacies enabled and updated and we need GPs enabled and updated.’
Previously, access to ePrescribing had been restricted to ‘communities of interest’ as the system underwent testing, but the increased number of coronavirus cases in Melbourne has meant there is renewed urgency to have it available in the areas it is most needed.
Dr Hosking said the majority of general practices are ready to carry out ePrescribing and it is ‘frustrating’ that pharmacies are not ‘keeping up’, but believes progress made at the latest meeting will increase the speed of the rollout.
‘The problem is that they announced in April that it was going to be fast-tracked and it was going to be ready by May – but here we are in August and we’re still getting pushback from pharmacies saying, “we’re not ready”,’ he said.
‘To be fair, it’s a bit [of a] bigger change for pharmacies than it is for general practice. For GPs, we just had to update our software and our processes, and spend a bit of time talking to patients about it.
‘But pharmacies may in some cases have to change their physical layout in the way they receive prescriptions … [and] they may have to put a barcode scanner out the front, which they didn’t before.
‘There also needs to be education occurring for pharmacists and their assistants so that everybody knows what’s going on.’
According to the ADHA, any general practice within the greater Melbourne area is now encouraged to commence ePrescribing, provided:

  • the appropriate software has been activated, which can be done by contacting the practice’s software supplier
  • there has been communication between the practice with their local pharmacies to ensure they are able to receive and dispense an electronic prescription
  • they stay informed by attending ePrescribing webinars and education sessions run by the ADHA, Pharmacy Guild and the RACGP.
The ADHA also reminded GPs to ensure any ePrescribing begins with a discussion regarding the patient’s preferred choice of how they receive their prescriptions and medicines.
Practices and pharmacies in other areas of Australia are being advised to prepare for a broader rollout by getting software ready and participating in training opportunities being provided by the ADHA, peak bodies and software providers.
Schedule 8 and 4D medicines
All medicines, including Schedule 8 and 4D, can be prescribed and dispensed through an ePrescription, which acts as the legal order to prescribe and supply.
Unlike a request for a Schedule 8 or 4D medicine using a digital image prescription via fax or email, the prescriber is not required to send an original hard copy of the prescription to the pharmacy.
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Dr Lisa Whitmarsh   18/08/2020 11:02:50 AM

Our clinic is ready and willing to provide e-prescriptions but I’ve yet to find a pharmacy that will dispense them.