Further extension of electronic prescription subsidy

Morgan Liotta

10/08/2021 3:27:50 PM

The Department of Health will support general practices to prescribe via SMS until at least 30 June 2022.

Scanning electronic prescription
The subsidy will continue to provide more support for GPs and practices. (Image: Australian Digital Health Agency)

The number of electronic prescriptions being used in Australia is increasing by around 500,000 every week, and as of July 2021, more than 12 million original and repeat prescriptions have been issued.
To date, this growth has been supported by a Federal Government subsidy that has allowed general practices to prescribe via SMS without incurring additional costs.
However, there were concerns about the future of electronic prescribing should the subsidy end, which is why RACGP Expert Committee – Practice Technology and Management (REC–PTM) representative Dr David Adam has welcomed its extension until at least 30 June 2022.
‘The subsidy provides more certainty for practice owners and practitioners and will help to consolidate electronic prescribing as a core part of practice,’ he told newsGP.
‘[It will also] support effective telehealth with the ongoing uncertainty created by COVID-19 outbreaks.’
Dr Adam had previously expressed concerns about general practices having to assume the costs of prescriptions sent via SMS should the subsidy end, and questioned why the service was so expensive.
‘We should also be asking ourselves why the cost of sending an SMS [via a computer program] in Australia is roughly seven times the cost of the United States,’ he told newsGP at the time.
To this end, the REC–PTM advocated for a further extension of the subsidy applied to the sending of electronic prescription tokens by SMS, and led discussions with the Australian Digital Health Agency.
Alternatives exist for prescribers and dispensers to send electronic prescriptions to patients via email or through mobile applications that do not incur these SMS costs.
The expansion of the Active Script List (ASL) will also enable more healthcare providers and patients to have the option of a token management solution that does not incur SMS fees.
Dr Adam said advances such as the ASL offer useful alternatives as more digital health initiatives are considered over time.
‘It’s clear that GPs need to consider their long-term options as there is still an end date on this subsidy,’ he said.
‘Hopefully the ASL or other forms of prescription management will be widely available soon.’
The Department of Health has completed its initial review of the electronic prescribing landscape and is now considering the outcomes with the intention of engaging in further consultation across the healthcare sector.
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