Timely RTM crucial: PSA

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South Australia has announced a real time monitoring system – but will it happen quickly enough for the PSA?

The PSA has welcomed the South Australian Government’s Budget announcement that it will implement a real time prescription monitoring program as a “good step forward” – but has called on the Marshall Government to ensure it is given high priority.

PSA SA/NT Branch President Robyn Johns urged the SA Government to follow through on this Budget commitment to help improve the health of South Australians.

“Real-time prescription monitoring was included in the state’s 2018-19 Budget but as yet we haven’t seen any progress,” she said.

“The 2019-20 Budget commitment of $4 million dollars to implement the system is very promising. However, timely implementation is crucial.”

Ms Johns cited the PSA’s recent Medicine Safety: Take Care report, which highlighted the severity and cost of medicine-related problems.

These are responsible for 250,000 hospital admissions and 400,000 emergency department presentations in Australia each year, costing the healthcare system $1.4 billion annually. At least half of this harm is avoidable, the report found.

“Medicine safety is a health priority and implementation of an RTPM system in South Australia will aid clinical decision making and provide an opportunity to identify and appropriately manage patients misusing specific prescription medications,” said Ms Johns.

“In turn, this will help address medicine-related harm and ensure optimal health outcomes for South Australians.”

The Budget announcement states the estimated completion date of the RTPM system implementation is June 2020. PSA says that it stands ready to engage with the government to achieve implementation within this timeframe.

However, although PSA says it supports the independent work of states and territories in implementing real-time prescription monitoring systems, the organisation believes this will continue to pose significant risks around interoperability across jurisdictions.

It has for some time advocated for the immediate implementation of a national recording and reporting system which would enable real-time monitoring to address the increase in harm resulting from inappropriate use of certain prescription medicines.

In 2018 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to progress a national solution where each jurisdiction develops their own system to connect with a Commonwealth system.

Some progress has been made with all states and territories, except NSW and WA, either implementing or setting strategies to introduce an RTPM system. Queensland is the most recent state to do so, introducing legislation into parliament in May that will enable the state’s health department to implement a mandatory RTPM system.

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 RTPM allows us to make full use of pharmacists’ skills and improve health outcomes,” said Ms Johns.

“We commend the SA Government for its commitment to implementing an RTPM system, but will continue to advocate for a nationally-consistent system to enable pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to work together to protect the entire Australian population from medicine-related harm,” Ms Johns said.

Meanwhile, earlier this month the NSW branch of the PSA called for real time monitoring in that state, concerned that as yet there has been no investment by the NSW Government in such a system.

“NSW continues to fall further behind despite experience internationally and locally that when such systems are implemented they have the desired effect in reducing harm,” its branch president, Professor Peter Carroll, said at the time.

And in the ACT, a coroner recently recommended making the ACT’s DORA system mandatory for all prescribers and pharmacists, as well as widening it to all S4 and S3 medicines.

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