Electronic prescriptions rolled out in Melbourne to support those at risk of COVID-19

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Electronic prescriptions, which have been made available in areas of Melbourne to support those most at risk of COVID-19, will be expanded beyond the current communities of interest, according to the Australian Digital Health Agency.

The implementation of electronic prescriptions, which has been in the pipeline for some time, was escalated in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

After successful testing since May 2020, electronic prescribing is now being implemented in greater Melbourne with the view to expand into practices and community pharmacies across Australia.

Electronic prescriptions are different from image-based prescriptions prescribed via telehealth, which has been an interim solution response to COVID-19. Electronic prescriptions work by using a Token Model which is encoded with its own unique QR code that is sent via email or SMS to the pharmacist.

While the Token Model will be available initially, there will be a progressive rollout to include an Active Script List Model which allows pharmacies to have a list of active prescriptions in their software, so that prescriptions won’t need to be forwarded on.

The Active Script List Model is expected to be available from the end of September 2020.

The Agency, however, stresses that while electronic prescriptions are designed to give patients greater choice, they will always remain as an option to paper-based prescriptions.

For practices and pharmacies to prepare for electronic prescriptions, the Australian Digital Health Agency has outlined several steps, including:

  • Software activation of the electronic prescribing functionality through the software supplier.
  • Communication between local pharmacies and practices to ensure everyone is ready to write and dispense an electronic prescription (noting some pharmacies may require more time and resources to get their dispensing workflow ready).

Practices and pharmacies in other areas of Australia are also being advised to prepare for a broader rollout by getting software ready and participating in training opportunities being provided by the Agency, peak bodies and software providers.

There are several webinars and education sessions run by the Australian Digital Health Agency, the Pharmacy Guild and the RACGP to learn more about electronic prescribing and how it works.

To access the Australian Digital Health Agency online training click here

For information specifically for Nurse Practitioners see Electronic Prescriptions Update for Nurse Practitioners webinar, which details electronic prescriptions as an option to paper prescription. The webinar also discusses the accelerated electronic prescription initiative announced as part of the COVID-19 National Health Plan and focusses on core EP capabilities and workflow aspects related to prescribers.

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