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Electronic Prescriptions

Pharmacist Jess dispenses electronic prescription in Amcal Coffs Harbour

Electronic Prescriptions

Jess, Amcal Coffs Harbour's resident pharmacist and all-round legend, explains it all

July 2020

What are electronic prescriptions?

An electronic prescription is one which electronically holds all the information a regular paper script would, but saved as encrypted data into a 'token'. These tokens look like a QR code, which is a fancy barcode. The token holds the information for the prescribed medicine for a particular patient, just like a paper script. 

Presenting this token at a pharmacy allows the supply of your medicine. A new token is generated if your prescription has repeats.  If you are receiving paper scripts, you can switch to electronic scripts each time your doctor writes a new script.  Paper prescriptions will still exist, so you can choose to have either paper or electronic. But not both!

Safe and secure electronic pharmacy prescription on patient's mobile phone

Are electronic scripts secure?

Even more so than electronic banking!  Tokens sent from your doctor's surgery to your mobile phone or computer have a high level of security and privacy. The data is de-identified, encrypted and essentially scrambled, and only approved registered providers, like your pharmacy or GP, have access to the government software to decode the information. Electronic prescriptions cannot be lost or forgotten, so they are easily traced and tracked.

How are electronic prescriptions useful?

 - For you, the patient

Electonic scripts provide convenient and timely access to medicines. Without multiple hands touching paper, there is less risk of spread of infectious diseases (eg.covid-19 and influenza – contact-free is safer, remember you still need to wash your hands, people!). In some cases, where the patient did not physically attend a doctor' surgery, the electronic script can be sent to your pharmacy, and medication will be delivered to your door.

 - For your doctor

We all know how time-poor doctors are! Electronic prescriptions mean less time wasted on data collection, more efficient spread of resources and more predictable workflow.  Some prescriptions, such as restricted medications, also require doctors to handwrite out the details and directions in words and figures. With electronic prescriptions, doctors no longer need to pick up a pen and shuffle volumes of paper so you can get your medication, meaning they can spend more time looking after their patients.  Doctors can also use e-scripts to see a history of prescribed and dispensed mediations, allowing for accurate patient histories to be accounted for when making a clinical decision.

 - For your pharmacy 

Have you ever tried to read a doctors' handwriting?  That's why pharmacists spend so long training at university! With E-scripts, a degree in decoding hieroglyphics is no longer needed! Electronic prescriptions increase accuracy and reduce the time taken to manage the vast manual data entry that accompanies prescriptions. Less manual data entry means your pharmacist will spend less time staring into a screen and more time talking with you.

 - For our environment

We are saving trees – no paper! Over 300 million scripts are dispensed using paper each year. If all scripts were electronic, Australia could save 162,000 tonnes of paper per year – that is a lot of trees!

Electronic prescriptions at Amcal Coffs Harbour save paper, trees & environment

"If all scripts were electronic, Australia could save 162,000 tonnes of paper per year – that is a lot of trees!"

Can all pharmacies receive electronic prescriptions?

Not yet. The national roll-out will be a gradual process starting with a handful of pharmacies. Amcal Coffs Harbour, partnering with CHC Medical, is one of the first pharmacies registered to dispense electronic scripts now in our region, we have already dispensed over 240 electronic prescriptions.

Completion is scheduled for October 2020 where all doctors will be able to prescribe, and all pharmacies ready to accept electronic prescriptions. To make sure you're ready, ensure your doctor's surgery has your up to date contact details.  

Do you need a myHealth record to receive electronic scripts? 

No, you do not need a myHealth record to use electronic prescriptions. 

How does Amcal Coffs Harbour receive electronic prescriptions?

Amcal Coffs Harbour can receive and dispense the electronic script token by either the patient or a carer/family member. For security, require proof of ID and consent to viewing the electronic prescription.

Electronic-scripts can be received by:

  • Face-to-face (showing token on a mobile phone)
  • Face-to-face (when the token is printed on paper, although, this does defeat the point of paperless scripts)
  • Email
  • Fax (if you are old-school)
  • Many apps are under development to send & receive e-scripts, such as Scrypt, Mediadviser and Health Notes.

Why does Jess, Amcal Coffs Harbour's resident pharmacist love the opportunities ahead for electronic prescriptions? What does this mean for the future?

Digital systems such as electronic prescribing will transform the quality and sustainability of healthcare in Australia. At Amcal Coffs Harbour, we are always keen to utilise technology and are at the forefront of protocol trials and early adoption of new pharmacy practices. I think that when used effectively, electronic prescribing will help health workers and patients alike. Imagine a future where the right medications are ready and available at the right time, with seamless communication between doctors and pharmacies, and no wait times for scripts!

If you want to get really technical, in-depth information is available here

Otherwise, feel free to reach out and contact us.  We are here to help you through these exciting times!