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Electronic prescriptions being expanded to support Melbourne

Following successful testing since May 2020, the rollout of electronic prescriptions across greater Melbourne will be expanded beyond the current communities of interest. Electronic prescribing is being implemented in General Practices and Community Pharmacies across Australia. Currently, the e-solution has been managed through an approach of testing and continuous improvement across a growing number of ‘communities of interest’. The wider rollout is designed to better serve people most at risk from COVID-19.

The Australian Department of Health and the Australian Digital Health Agency are working with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to support doctors and pharmacists in the greater Melbourne area in a bid to facilitate faster access of the new technology. There will be an immediate concentration on general practices and community pharmacies in greater metropolitan Melbourne to ramp up electronic prescription capacity. Given the severe COVID-19 crisis in Melbourne, this will support a safer and more convenient supply of medicines for patients.

The initiative is encouraging local pharmacies and general practices to prepare themselves in anticipation of the wider rollout. They have outlined 3 steps to better ready general practices and pharmacies.

Step 1: Software activation – contact software supplier and ask them to activate the electronic prescribing functionality.

Step 2: Communication between local pharmacies and general practices is critical. This will ensure readiness to write and dispense electronic prescriptions.

Step 3: Stay informed – attend 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.

All medicines, including Schedule 8 and 4D medicines, can be prescribed and dispensed through an electronic prescription providing patients with a safe and secure way of obtaining medicines remotely. Unlike a request for a Schedule 8 or 4D medicine using a digital image prescription via fax or email, the prescriber is not required to send an original hard copy of the prescription to the pharmacy – the electronic (paperless) prescription is the legal order to prescribe and supply.

The agency has been quick to note that electronic prescriptions are an alternative to paper. If a patient’s preferred local pharmacy is not ready for electronic prescriptions, patients can still choose to get a paper prescription from their doctor.

Practices and pharmacies in other areas of Australia are 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.

The Australian Digital Health Agency is tasked with improving health outcomes for all Australians through the delivery of digital healthcare systems, and implementing Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy – Safe, Seamless, and Secure: evolving health and care to meet the needs of modern Australia in collaboration with partners across the community.

The Agency is the System Operator of My Health Record, and provides leadership, coordination, and delivery of a collaborative and innovative approach to utilising technology to support and enhance a clinically safe and connected national health system. These improvements will give individuals more control of their health and their health information, and support healthcare providers to deliver informed healthcare through access to current clinical and treatment information.

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