Those bits of paper your GP gives you to get medications from your Pharmacist are changing. Scripts are now DIGITAL!
GPs can now send prescriptions to pharmacists electronically as an interim solution during the pandemic.
As part of the COVID-19 National Health Plan telehealth model, the new interim measure allows GPs to send prescriptions electronically to pharmacists without having to mail out a physical copy of the original paper prescription with a GP’s wet-ink signature.
Patients can then have their script filled and medication delivered to their door, helping to minimise the risk of virus transmission in accordance with social-distancing measures.
‘It’s certainly going to make it easier for practices, because they are being inundated with pharmacists asking them to post prescriptions to them,’
‘I know at my practices it’s causing substantial concern.
‘We’re getting calls every day from pharmacists saying, “I can’t dispense unless you send me the hardcopy paper”, and we’re saying, “We don’t have the resources to keep running out and buying stamps, and it’s just not safe to put staff in that position”.
‘So we’ve had a bit of a stalemate for the last few weeks and this is a great outcome in the short term.’
As outlined in guidelines issued by the Department of Health (DoH), GPs will be required to do as follows:
- Create a paper prescription during a telehealth consultation. This will need to be signed as normal or using a valid digital signature
- Create a clear copy of the entire prescription (a digital image such as a photo or PDF including the barcode where applicable)
- Send via email, fax or text message directly to the patient’s pharmacy of choice
Schedule 8 and 4(D) medicines such as opioids and fentanyl are not part of the interim arrangement.
While not legally required, the DoH encourages practices that are able to continue sending the original script to pharmacies to do so as soon as possible. All other practices must retain the paper prescription for a period of up to two years for audit and compliance purposes.
This is a great step forwards!
Changes have been made to Commonwealth legislation to recognise an electronic prescription as a legal form to allow medicine supply. This provides prescribers and patients with an alternative to paper prescriptions. Paper prescriptions will still be available.
Electronic prescribing will not fundamentally change existing prescribing and dispensing processes. It provides patients with greater choice and patients can still choose which pharmacy they attend to fill their prescription.
Under the Australian Government’s National Health Plan for COVID-19, electronic prescriptions are now being fast-tracked to support telehealth and allow patients to receive vital healthcare services while maintaining physical distancing and, where necessary, isolation.
A significant amount of work has already been done to ensure that necessary upgrades to both pharmacy and prescriber software can be done quickly and electronic prescriptions are expected to be available from the end of May.
Electronic prescriptions are an alternative to paper prescriptions which will allow people convenient access to their medicines and will lessen the risk of infection being spread in general practice waiting rooms and at community pharmacies.
The solution being fast-tracked will see a unique QR barcode known as a “token” sent via an app (if you have one), SMS or email. The token will be sent to you from your doctor, which is then presented or sent to a pharmacy, to supply your medication.
The token will be scanned by your pharmacist as a key to unlock the electronic prescription from an encrypted and secure electronic prescription delivery service.
If you have any repeats of a prescription, a new token will be sent to you when the prescription is dispensed. You will need to keep the token to send to your pharmacy when you need to get the repeat filled.
Active Script List
By the end of this year, more functionality will be available and in addition to the token, there will also be an option for your pharmacy to have a list of your active prescriptions in their software, so you don’t have to forward it on.
To get your medicines you will need to prove your identity to the pharmacist and provide consent for the pharmacist to view your prescriptions.
Steps to take in preparation for using an electronic prescription
- Ensure your address, email address and mobile number are up to date with your doctor and pharmacy.
- Check that your pharmacy can take an electronic prescription and are delivering medicines.