What's new?

August 2013

The Department of Human Services Compliance Program for 2013-15 has been released.

Electronic prescribing and dispensing of medicines

Electronic prescribing and dispensing of medicine is a key initiative of all Australian governments aimed at improving the delivery and quality of health care and achieving better health outcomes.  

Electronic prescribing and dispensing enables all stages of the prescribing, supply of medicine, and claiming process to be completed electronically.  It will provide an alternative to the current paper based prescription system.  Prescriptions will be created and signed electronically by prescribers.

The streamlined process can allow for a prescription to be entered electronically by a medical practitioner, authenticated via an electronic signature, and transmitted securely for dispensing by a pharmacy.  The pharmacy can then make claims electronically to the Department of Human Services.

What are the benefits?

Electronic prescribing and dispensing has the potential to deliver a range of real benefits including:

  • Improved confidentiality and security of health information
  • Better clarity and communication of prescription information
  • Rapid information exchange
  • More time with health professionals due to less paperwork
  • Reduction in medication error
  • Decline in adverse drug events, and
  • Mitigate against fraud risks present in the paper-based process.

Which legislation supports this?

The Australian Government has removed Commonwealth legislative barriers to electronic prescribing and dispensing of PBS medicine by implementing changes to the National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Amendment Regulations 2006. The regulatory amendments came into effect on 1 March 2007.

In addition to Commonwealth amendments, any state and territory legislative barriers have been identified and are currently being removed to align with the Commonwealth amendments and to provide the rules for electronic prescribing and dispensing in each jurisdiction.

Resources

Who can I contact?

General public PBS information line 1800 020 613
Providers Provider hotline 132 150
Pharmacists Pharmacist hotline 132 290

Frequently asked questions

General questions

What is electronic prescribing and dispensing?

Electronic prescribing and dispensing will enable all stages of the prescribing, supply of medicine, and claiming process to be completed electronically. It will provide an alternative to the current paper based prescription system. Prescriptions will be created and signed electronically by prescribers.

A more streamlined process will allow for a prescription to be entered electronically by a medical practitioner, authenticated via an electronic signature, and transmitted securely for dispensing by a pharmacy. The pharmacy can then make claims electronically to Medicare.

What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature is a method of signing an electronic document that identifies and authenticates a particular person as the source of the electronic document, and indicates that person’s approval of (and accountability for) the information contained in the electronic document.

How will electronic prescribing and dispensing work?

The process will allow for a prescription to be created electronically by a medical practitioner, authenticated via an electronic signature, transmitted securely and retrieved by a pharmacy for dispensing. The pharmacy can then make claims electronically to Medicare.

There are a number of potential electronic prescribing and dispensing business models. No one solution will be mandated at this time because key work on standards and health information regulation are still being finalised.

Parties interested in implementing an electronic prescribing solution that involves prescribing PBS medicine will need to submit a proposal for assessment.

For more information, go to www.health.gov.auExternal link

What are the benefits?

This initiative has the potential to deliver a range of real benefits including:

  • Improved confidentiality and security of health information
  • Better clarity and communication of prescription information
  • Rapid information exchange
  • More time for consumers with health professionals due to less paperwork
  • Potential to reduce medication errors
  • Potential for a decline in adverse drug events, and
  • Mitigate fraud risks present in the paper-based process.

Is this legal in my State or Territory?

The Australian Government has removed Commonwealth legislative barriers to electronic prescribing and dispensing of PBS medicine by implementing changes to the National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Amendment Regulations 2006. The regulatory amendments became effective on 1 March 2007.

In addition to Commonwealth amendments, any state and territory legislative barriers have been identified and are currently being removed to align with the Commonwealth amendments and to provide the rules for electronic prescribing and dispensing in each jurisdiction. Relevant state and territory contact details will be provided in the near future.

I am a consumer

How will electronic prescribing and dispensing work for me?

Electronic prescribing and dispensing has the potential to assist with reducing the risk of medication errors during the process of prescribing and dispensing your medicine.

This streamlined process will enable speedy transfer of information between your medical practitioner and pharmacist, allowing for more time to be spent on your health-care needs.

Will I still have a choice of pharmacy?

Yes, this initiative will not affect your choice of pharmacy. When using the new electronic process you will be able to have your medicine supplied from your preferred pharmacy.

Will I be able to have my prescription sent electronically now?

In the beginning there will be limited numbers of medical practitioners and pharmacies involved so, necessarily, this option won’t be available to everyone immediately.

How will my privacy be protected?

Your prescription medicine information will be managed in a secure environment with safeguards in place to protect your privacy, as they are now with paper prescriptions.

Who can access my records?

Your electronic prescription will be protected in accordance with current legal obligations. Only those with a need to know information relating to your prescription, in order to meet your health care needs will be able to access your record. For example, your medical practitioner and the pharmacists that you have chosen to supply your medicine.

Can I still receive a paper based prescription?

Yes, this will not affect your choice to use the existing paper based prescription process. You may choose to have a paper prescription or for your prescription to be sent electronically.

How can I keep track of my repeats?

Where appropriate, your pharmacist will provide you with details of your prescription including a record of your repeats. 

What changes do I need to make?

You will not be required to do anything more than what you already do. If you choose to have your prescription sent electronically, and your pharmacy is able to receive such prescriptions, you can ask your medical practitioner to provide you with a paper receipt to assist as a visual reminder of your prescription. You will still need to take your Medicare card and any other concession cards with you when you visit a pharmacy.

Who can I contact for further information?

For further information regarding electronic prescribing and dispensing of medicine, please contact the PBS information line on 1800 020 613.

I am a medical practitioner

How will electronic prescribing and dispensing work for me?

Electronic prescribing and dispensing will enable electronic transfer of a prescription to a pharmacy for dispensing. Prescriptions will be signed electronically by you, using an individual digital certificate and transferred electronically by your prescribing software.

Who can I contact for further information?

For more information, go to www.health.gov.auExternal link

I am a pharmacist

How will electronic prescribing and dispensing work for me?

Electronic prescribing and dispensing will enable electronic transfer of a prescription from a prescriber to your pharmacy. The prescription information will then be available to use to dispense the medicine for your patient. This streamlined process will reduce the manual processing involved with dispensing a prescription, allowing you to focus on professional pharmacy services.

Who can I contact for further information?

For more information, go to www.health.gov.auExternal link

I am a software vendor

As a software vendor, what will I need to do?

The Australian Government Department of Health and the Department of Human Services are working in conjunction with the National e-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) to develop guidelines identifying the technical requirements and standards.

When these principles and guidelines are developed, changes will be required to existing clinical software to ensure systems comply with requirements.

What are the standards?

Solutions should use existing standards and demonstrate progress towards compliance with NEHTA's e-health interoperability framework, which establishes common e-health concepts, principles and standards to promote and enable interoperability across the health sector.

The Australian government has invested in a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) solution and, depending on the environment in which the e-prescribing solution will operate, it may be necessary to apply Medicare's PKI solution.

How does electronic prescribing and dispensing link with the work undertaken by the National e-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA)?

NEHTA has established an e-Health interoperability framework which all Australian Government departments have endorsed.  Any solutions should comply with this framework and seek appropriate standards as they are introduced.  Relevant areas of appropriate standards development are as follows:

  • An Australian medicine terminology which will extend the nationally agreed terminology for all clinical terms used in Australian healthcare, SNOMED CT
  • Interchange formats (e-prescribing)
  • Data interchange standards (HL7)
  • Supply chain (National Product Catalogue)
  • User authentication
  • Healthcare identifiers
  • e-health privacy and consent
  • Shared Electronic Health Record.

How will it be integrated in software?

The Department of Human Services (the department) has developed PBS Online as the e-business channel for PBS claiming activity. Any e-prescribing solution must integrate with PBS Online.

The PBS Online solution is provided to pharmacy dispensing software vendors in the form of a client adaptor. The client adaptor is composed of an application programming interface used to interface between client systems and the department and the online claiming for PBS Logic Pack, which allows the department to deliver business processes and functionality specific to PBS.

The electronic prescription would need to be seamlessly integrated into the PBS online claims message forwarded to the department by the pharmacy.

Who can I contact for further information?

For more information, go to www.health.gov.auExternal link

Last updated: 25 March, 2014