E-scripts being expanded across Melbourne

Pharmacist using computer

Pharmacies in the greater Melbourne region with software capability can now commence dispensing e-prescriptions, the Australian Digital Health Agency has announced

While previous communications stated electronic prescriptions should only be written or dispensed as part of ‘communities of interest’ trials, this is now being expanded to the greater Melbourne area, the Federal agency has announced.

The ADHA said the decision to expand e-prescribing capabilities across the city was made to support people most at risk from COVID-19.

It follows successful testing since May 2020, when Australia’s first paperless electronic prescription was prescribed and dispensed in Victoria.

Given the current COVID-19 crisis in Melbourne, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the RACGP have joined together with the Federal Department of Health and the ADHA to support doctors and pharmacists in the greater Melbourne area to access the new technology faster.

“This will support a safer and more convenient supply of medicines for patients,” said the Agency.

The ADHA said: “If you have made the preparations outlined below, you can and should commence electronic prescribing in greater Melbourne, starting with the patient’s preferred choice of how they receive their prescriptions and medicines.

“With an immediate focus on general practices and community pharmacies in greater metropolitan Melbourne to substantially increase electronic prescription capability over the coming weeks, we all need to work together.”

Melbourne Metropolitan Area, Victoria, Australia. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The PSA said the changes mean electronic prescriptions are quickly expected to be in wide use across the whole metropolitan area by prescribers and pharmacies. 

“All community pharmacies need to ensure they are ready to start receiving electronic prescriptions,” it said.

“This is a significant milestone in the rollout of electronic prescriptions. All pharmacies around the nation should be preparing for the possibility they may receive an electronic prescription in the near future.”

It is expected the greater Melbourne community of interest will be expanded to include all of regional Victoria shortly, said the PSA.

“However, there are no barriers to pharmacies activating their software and dispensing electronic prescriptions if they receive them.”

It is important to note that not all patients will be using e-prescriptions.

“The patient is able to choose whether they receive a paper or electronic prescription. Uptake is likely to progressively increase over time,” said the PSA.

The ADHA added: “It’s important to remember 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.”


ADHA list for general practice and pharmacy readiness

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

Step 2: Communication between local pharmacies and general practices is critical – this will ensure everyone is ready to write and dispense an electronic prescription (noting some pharmacies may require more time and resources to get their dispensing workflow ready).Patients may experience a delay in accessing their medicines including having to return to general practice for a paper prescription if this step is not undertaken.

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.

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.

Schedule 8 and 4D medicines

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.


For more information about electronic prescribing and electronic prescriptions, see:
Department of Health
Australian Digital Health Agency
Australian Digital Health Agency electronic prescription eLearning
Australian Digital Health Agency electronic prescription upcoming webinars
The RACGP information for GPs and patients
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Dedicated Electronic Prescriptions Support Line for pharmacies: 1300 955 162. Available 08:30am to 7:00pm AEST

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