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Image-based prescribing extended


Matt Woodley


14/09/2021 3:45:23 PM

Arrangements for image-based prescribing, implemented at the start of the pandemic, will now end on 31 December 2021.

Pharmacist with a digital tablet.
GPs had warned of ‘unforeseen problems’ had image-based prescribing been wound up too early.

The Federal Department of Health (DoH) has confirmed it will continue to allow image-based prescribing until the end of the year, having previously indicated it would end on 30 September.
 
‘Given electronic prescribing is now widely available, the decision to extend image-based prescribing is 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 state-wide COVID-19 lockdowns,’ a DoH fact sheet states.
 
‘Medicines in Schedule 8 and Schedule 4 Appendix D in the Poisons Standard are not part of this interim arrangement. They are to be supplied under the current prescribing arrangements.’
 
The temporary measure was introduced at the start of the pandemic to support telehealth consultations until electronic prescriptions became widely available and fully functional.
 
However, even though electronic prescribing is now available for the majority of Australians and the number of electronic prescriptions is increasing by 500,000 every week, GPs had warned of ‘unforeseen problems’ had image-based prescribing been wound up too early – especially as there has not yet been widespread adoption of the Active Script List.
 
RACGP Expert Committee – Practice Technology and Management member Dr Nathan Pinskier previously told newsGP he did not think there were ‘legitimate reasons’ for phasing out image-based prescribing at this stage.
 
‘The challenge is that there are still a number of practices that have not adopted the new token-based prescription system,’ he said.
 
‘Then if you move into the rest of the sector, adoption outside general practice, [such as] specialists and other prescribers will be very low. That would be my assumption [because] you have to have clinical software to be able to do electronic prescribing, and lots of providers don’t.
 
‘So until there’s a bigger uptake of that, it’s premature to take it [image-based prescribing] away. It’s risky and likely to cause unforeseen problems that could be avoided.’
 
To utilise image-based prescribing under the extended special arrangement, GPs will still need to create a paper prescription during a telehealth consultation and sign it as normal or use a valid digital signature.
 
A clear copy of the entire prescription must then be created and sent directly to the patient’s pharmacy of choice via email, text message or fax. The copy can be a digital image such as a photo or PDF, including the barcode where applicable.
 
Should the patient prefer to receive the legal paper prescription it will need to be mailed to them.
 
It is a legal requirement for prescribers to retain the paper prescription for two years for audit and compliance purposes.
 
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