SMS subsidy for electronic prescribing extended

Matt Woodley

23/03/2021 1:32:10 PM

GPs will now be able to send electronic prescriptions free of charge until at least 30 June.

Patient showing pharmacist their ePrescription
It is expected that the move to extend the subsidy will will help support the ongoing uptake of electronic prescribing.

The subsidy was originally scheduled to end on 31 March, but the Australia Digital Health Agency (ADHA) has since confirmed that the Department of Health (DoH) will continue to cover the cost of SMSs used to send electronic prescriptions until at least the end of the financial year.
‘The department and agency are keen to work with the health sector to establish an ongoing model to support the provision of electronic prescriptions to consumers,’ an ADHA release stated.
‘To enable this consultation to occur, the extension … will allow for further consideration on future funding arrangements.
‘It should be noted that SMS costs are specific to the provision of electronic prescription tokens to patients on their mobile phone. 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.’
Dr David Adam, a representative of the RACGP Expert Committee – Practice Technology and Management (REC–PTM), told newsGP the extension will be a relief for practice owners in particular, who would otherwise have to bear the costs of electronic prescribing.
‘This is a welcome move and will help support the ongoing uptake of electronic prescribing by doctors and pharmacists,’ he said.
‘But of course there is still an open question about how sustainable it will be after 30 June, or whether another extension will be made.
‘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.’
Aside from SMSs, emails and mobile phone apps, GPs will also soon have the option of adding the prescription to the Active Script List (ASL), which will provide an option for token management that does not incur SMS charges.
However, Dr Adam has concerns about some ongoing privacy issues related to the ASL.
‘If you don’t want the prescription sent to the ASL, for whatever reason, it’s easy to make mistakes as the user interface model is pretty tricky to get right,’ he said.
‘The example we’ve always used is HIV medication. There’s a small number of people who get all their prescriptions from one pharmacy, aside from their HIV medication, which they get from another pharmacy.
‘Unless you click exactly the right button every single time, then there’s a potential for that not to happen, and instead the medication is sent to the ASL when the patient didn’t want that.
‘Basically there’s a very small number of people who are potentially affected, but the outcomes could be pretty significant.’
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