Are you ready for e-prescribing?

No matter how small you are, technology makes you mighty, writes Megan Kazantzis

E-prescribing is one of the largest and most significant changes the industry has experienced since the computerisation of pharmacies. There are many benefits of e-prescriptions, including no more loss of paper scripts and an improved customer experience.

E-prescribing has the potential to impact workflows in your pharmacy and for your patients in a way that improves convenience and brings pharmacy into line with consumer retail experiences in e-commerce, online banking, food delivery and transport.

Recent studies in nations that already use e-prescribing show that 87% of patients prefer e-scripts to paper.

But with the imminent widespread roll out of e-prescribing, there is a need to work through its impact on the industry and how pharmacists will contend with it.

New competitors

By taking prescriptions digital, it opens up the competitor landscape. E-prescriptions inevitably leads to a proliferation of online pharmacies, as has been observed in other countries.

Capitalising on lower operating costs, online pharmacies will promise an end-to-end solution for patients to order and have their medications delivered without the need to go to a physical pharmacy, presenting a competitive pressure for community pharmacies to match that convenience.

Online pharmacies will be able to play a larger role in the Australian marketplace, leveraging seamless digital experiences and the ability to offer a wider breadth of products. We’ve already seen ‘Amazon Pharmacy’ register in Australia – signalling what’s coming.

Government funding during COVID-19 has seen an explosion of telehealth providers enter the market, many of which have struck relationships with pharmacies, meaning many are prescribing remotely and teaming up directly with pharmacies so patients can get medication quickly.

So how does the humble community pharmacy compete in this new world? They need to play to customer demands – offering services like online ordering, online payment and delivery.

No matter how small you are, you can be mighty when it comes to getting tech savvy and offering these conveniences your customers are demanding – many are already integrated directly with your dispensing software and with government funding still available for medication delivery for vulnerable patients, it doesn’t cost you any more to provide these services.

New workflows

E-scripts are also changing pharmacy workflows with many having to think about how they handle mobile scripts, how they manage patient confusion and education and how you can ensure this doesn’t compromise patient care. 

So how does the humble community pharmacy work in this new world? Well, if you’re already using a dispensing platform, processing e-prescriptions is not actually that different to processing a paper script. The token model driving e-prescribing is simple and suits all dispense systems – it doesn’t require more investment in new technologies or add-on hardware.

For patients who prefer e-prescriptions, the new system will reduce or even eliminate the need for paper scripts on file at your pharmacy, reducing the customer loyalty effect that scripts on file have traditionally provided. However, scripts that you previously kept on file in drawers will now be in a digital script wallet on your script management software. This digital script file improves pharmacy efficiency and makes the repeat fulfilment process smoother for both patient and pharmacy.

Preparing for e-prescriptions

Increasing your focus on patient convenience, be it through frictionless ordering, payment, express lanes and/or home delivery, is paramount if you want to thrive in an e-prescription environment.

Pharmacists are consistently ranked as one of the most trusted healthcare professionals by patients. By providing continued excellence in customer service, combined with hyper-convenient patient experiences, patients will be less inclined to chase a different experience through online pharmacy and remain a key member of your community.

Megan Kazantzis is an in-house pharmacist at MedAdvisor.

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  1. William

    Four years ago I foresaw this coming and made comment in this forum here, many of our colleagues did not take kindly to the idea. It took Covid 19 to get the concept of e-scripts functioning and Medicare reimbursable to get the first stage going. The next stages need a bit more development and programming but is technically possible to provide a fully computerised and validated prescriber to patient delivery system. Not many pharmacists would be needed and it could be done using Government distribution/delivery centres, say a couple for each Council area. Welcome to the brave new world of technology.

    • Jarrod McMaugh

      what is it about electronic prescriptions that makes you think that a pharmacist’s professional role would not be required?

      • William

        I am not disputing a professional role, just would only need one pharmacist overseeing the validated electronic system, qualified each week by him. The computer would have patient history and monitor dosage, interactions etc. Retail pharmacy would be decimated. Supermarkets stock most pharmacy goods so limited turnover would go through pharmacy except the likes of CWH, making it uneconomic.
        Hospital pharmacy maybe will survive.
        The days of shops on every corner are well gone.
        Paul should read this too.

        • Jarrod McMaugh

          William, electronic prescriptions make it easier to send a script to whichever pharmacy you want, but the pharmacist still has the same amount of work to do when handling them.

          The idea that a pharmacist could perform any of their roles “each week” shows a clear lack of understanding of what pharmacists do

          • Bidza M

            I think the inherent danger lies in the “Amazonisation” of pharmacy, with big corporate chains extending their influence, as their target market for script trade would not be limited by geography.Esp in the metro areas, where a big corporate can partner with a delivery chain to guarentee next day/same day delivery, why would someone need to visit their local pharmacy?There would still be some traffic willing to visit their local pharmacy, but the pertinent question is whether the local pharmacy will remain sustainable given the double loss of trade to retail shops for non script items and bigger pharmacy chains with a stronger online presence for script trade.Doubtless, some pharmacies will be able to innovate their way out, but if you factor in extenuating circumstances like impaired cash flow due to covid etc, there will be some pharmacies out there that are ill prepared for the coming storm

          • Jarrod McMaugh

            This is definitely true – electronic prescribing (especially the active script list) will make it simpler for pharmacies to set up distribution-centre-style pharmacies that services the entire country from one location; the potential impact on small pharmacies is significant.

            But in continuing my response to what William was saying, that doesn’t reduce the professional role of the pharmacist.

    • Paul Sapardanis

      E prescriptions should have no relationship with delivery services. In fact the delivery of scheduled medicines requires regulatory intervention. How a scheduled medicine can be dispensed without direct pharmacist/patient interaction is baffling.

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