‘No excuse’ for lack of real time monitoring

Victoria's Health Minister Jenny Mikakos discusses the statewide rollout of SafeScript
Victoria's Health Minister Jenny Mikakos discusses the statewide rollout of SafeScript

The ACT’s real time monitoring system has been hailed as a time-saver, as Victoria rolls its own system out statewide… and other jurisdictions are urged to follow

The Territory’s new online system, DORA, is the third such system to roll out, following a similar system in Tasmania and Victoria’s SafeScript, which is now being extended across that state.

Pharmacy Guild Victorian president Anthony Tassone says that other jurisdictions need to act on their own systems.

“With the successful pilot of SafeScript in Western Victoria and now the state-wide rollout, there is really no excuse of any other state or territory who hasn’t implemented real time prescription monitoring,” Mr Tassone said.

“How many more people need to lose their lives to prescription medicine overdose? We have a tool that can help save lives, and the time is now for there to be a system in every state and territory across Australia.”

Pharmacy Guild ACT Branch president Simon Blacker has spoken to ABC Radio’s Paula Kruger and said that as the Commonwealth’s real time monitoring system is introduced, the ACT will be the first jurisdiction to access national data.

“And that would mean for Canberrans who perhaps get a script filled in Yass, or in Queanbeyan, outside the Territory, with a Canberra address that will feed back into the database in time so that we can be aware of where people are getting their strong medications around Australia,” he said.

However in the meantime, “The ACT sits within NSW and at this stage the NSW Government hasn’t done anything as proactive as the ACT Government”.

“Hopefully we’ll have momentum across Australia and that will lead to better compliance and better health outcomes for the entire population.”


DORA launches

Mr Blacker told Ms Kruger about his experience with the Territory’s new system, which went online at the end of last week.

DORA, is “a really positive development that should provide greater safety and more information so that better clinical decisions are made in pharmacy and in GP practices,” Mr Blacker told Ms Kruger.

DORA is an extension of the Drugs and Poisons Information System (DAPIS), the regulatory business system used by ACT Health to monitor prescribing and supply of controlled medicines.

“There is a little bit of work in terms of the individual login, but even yesterday looking at the online website, it was a rather nice moment where one of my pharmacist colleagues actually was testing the website, and she had to log in,” Mr Blacker said. “And she said, ‘Actually I’ve got a script I need to actually check for a new medication’.

“And she wanted to check that all the authorities were in place for that patient to be receiving that controlled medication.

“With the click of a button the information was in front of her, and it just saved probably five or 10 minutes of phone calls and verification. And as pharmacists we were all pleased because we thought, even though it’s a separate program we need to log into, the information was there and it was accessible and we didn’t need to bother the GP in this case to verify that.”

This is significantly easier than using the existing manual system, which sees community pharmacists issuing weekly reports to ACT Health, Mr Blacker said – and it also has another advantage.

Pharmacists will now be able to see the work ACT Health is doing with prescribers to manage certain medicines, and can be “part of that,” Mr Blacker said.

While use of DORA is not compulsory for ACT pharmacists, he expects that “word will travel” and most community pharmacists will be signed up shortly.

“I may expect at some stage it may become compulsory,” he said.

The PSA also welcomed the rollout, with ACT Branch President Renae Beardmore highlighting that “Every year, 250,000 Australians are admitted to hospital as a result of medicine-related problems, according to PSA’s Medicine Safety: Take Care report.

“This new clinical tool along with real time prescription reporting will support both doctors and pharmacists in addressing patient safety and the misuse of medicines such as opioids and stimulants through monitoring incorrect, inappropriate or overuse of these medicines. 

“The ACT is leading the way in adopting a patient-focussed prescription monitoring system that will reduce medicine-related problems, address the issue of prescription medicine addiction and lead to better health outcomes for patients.”

ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris urged all eligible prescribers and pharmacists to apply and register for DORA and to commence using the system as part of their clinical practice.

“DORA has put the ACT on the front foot for adopting national real time prescription monitoring in the future, as the Federal Government plans to implement its national monitoring system from this year.

“The ACT Government is supportive and plans to adopt the full functions of the national system, following the rollout of DORA,” Minister Fitzharris said.


Rolling out SafeScript

Meanwhile Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos announced the full rollout of SafeScript after the system was successfully introduced in Western Victoria last October.

Over the last six months, the system has alerted health professionals at more than 400 sites across Western Victoria to around 4,500 patients at risk of harm of overdose from visiting multiple clinics or pharmacies.

There are now more than 7,500 health professionals registered and using the system.

Each week 300 more health professionals are registering to use SafeScript, and the system is recording one new prescription every five seconds.

“The Guild have been long-time supporters and advocates of real-time prescription monitoring and following the successful pilot in Western Victoria, it is pleasing to see the state-wide rollout of SafeScript so that more doctors and pharmacists can work collaboratively to reduce harm for patients under their care,” Mr Tassone said.

“With more Victorians sadly losing their lives to prescription medicine overdose compared to the road toll and illicit drug overdose, SafeScript will help doctors and pharmacists make more informed prescribing and dispensing decisions – and will help save lives.

“While there’s been recent cases of public disagreements between peak pharmacy and medical organisations – which we’d really rather not see, when it comes to harm minimisation there is a strong and constructive relationship at the State level. 

“We look forward to working together to advocate for increased treatment and support services for patients and greater access to treatment of drug dependency services.”

Again, the PSA also welcomed the rollout.

PSA Victorian President Benjamin Marchant said PSA thanked the government for its commitment to protecting the public from medicine misuse with the SafeScript program.

“The Department of Health and Human Services has already made excellent progress with the introduction of SafeScript in the Western Victoria Primary Health Network and other areas since last October,” Mr Marchant said.

“Pharmacists and prescribers play a vital role in using SafeScript to improve patient safety by reviewing their patients’ prescription history for high-risk medicines.

“One of the key actions in PSA’s Pharmacists in 2023 report is to embrace digital transformation to improve the quality use of medicines; support the delivery of safe, effective, and efficient healthcare; and facilitate collaborative models of care.

“Technological improvement in pharmacist care through systems such as SafeScript allows us to make full use of pharmacists’ skills and improve the health of all Australians.

“Ultimately, SafeScript saves lives by empowering pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to work together to protect the community from risk of overdose.”

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