The need to be prepared

COVID-19 has fast-tracked the introduction of e-prescribing, one of the National Health Digital Strategy priority areas. It’s vital for pharmacies to be ready for this, says Ben Wilkins

The National Health Digital Strategy has seven priority areas with the outcomes to be achieved by 2022.

The vision is to have “Better health for all Australians enabled by safe, seamless, secure digital health services and technologies that provide a range of innovative, easy to use tools for both patients and providers.” (See here for more information) 

The first priority area is My Health Record and we know this has taken a long time to come to fruition and still has some way to go to become embedded as a health care tool for providers.

The next six priority areas are in varying stages of development and will roll out far more quickly than My Health Record. Covid-19 has brought forward one aspect of Priority 4 Medicines Safety, that of Electronic Prescriptions.

The fast-track electronic prescriptions are now scheduled to be launched from May 2020. That’s right, this month!

COVID-19 temporary measures like the interim digital image prescriptions has confused the market with some presuming that these are what is termed electronic prescriptions. But this is not correct, they are two separate methods for transmitting and receiving prescriptions.

This confusion and the hectic nature of pharmacy due to the Covid restrictions has meant that Electronic Prescriptions are about to be launched, but many pharmacies may not be set up and ready.

Electronic Prescriptions – a game changer

Digital health care is confusing for some, especially with the imminent launch of electronic prescriptions post May. This is almost sidelined in many pharmacists’ minds by the COVID-19/Telehealth interim provisions enabling digital image prescriptions until 30 September 2020, at this point in time. It is important to be aware that these prescription mechanisms are totally different things in practice!

The interim arrangement in COVID-19, at this stage, are just that – temporary – while the genuine electronic prescription platform is part of the National Digital Health Strategy and is here to stay. It will revolutionise how doctors and pharmacists work and how patients interact, especially with community pharmacies.

From the launch, prescribers and patients will have an alternative to a paper prescription. The electronic prescription may be in two forms. The first format under fast-track electronic prescriptions is in a Token format that is sent from the prescriber’s software to the patient’s device either via email, text or other messaging service/app. No paper prescription is generated by the prescriber. 

Paper prescriptions will remain for those patients who prefer a method they have known for a long time. The two formats of prescriptions are not interchangeable so once a paper prescription is issued it cannot be converted into an electronic format and vice versa – it must be cancelled and reissued by the prescriber in the alternate format.

From launch pharmacies need to be ready and able to accept and dispense Electronic Prescriptions or they may miss out as the patient will go elsewhere or the prescriber will have to cancel and reissue a paper version.

Part two of this series of articles will appear in next Monday’s AJP newsletter 

Ben Wilkins is a pharmacist with digital health expertise. He is a director of ehealth coach. Email:, or phone: 1300 770 998

More information on this topic can be found via the Australian Digital Health Agency, peak bodies, banner groups or wholesalers, as well as independent supporting organisations.  Another option is to subscribe to save you time.



Previous The week in review
Next Telehealth ‘set to stay’

NOTICE: It can sometimes take awhile for comment submissions to go through, please be patient.

No Comment

Leave a reply