Electronic Transfer of Prescription



Electronic prescribing is the ability to electronically facilitate the prescribing and dispensing of medications.

Electronic prescribing in the Australian context

Australia has implemented ETP Level 1 from ATS4888.2-2013 which allows transfer of electronic prescriptions (from paper prescriptions) in a nationally consistent manner [RY1]. 

Context in digital health

Electronic prescribing currently involves creation of an electronic prescription (alongside a legal paper prescription) which is transmitted to a Prescription Exchange Service (PES). The pharmacy can then dispense the medications by electronically retrieving the prescription details from the PES.

Prescribing Flow Diagram

Figure 1: Electronic prescribing flow

  1. The prescribing clinician, after consultation with the patient, prescribes the patient their medication. This information is captured in their local system and a paper prescription is handed to the patient.
  2. The prescribing system uploads the prescription to a PES.
  3. Upon presentation of the paper prescription, the dispensing pharmacist retrieves the prescription from the PES.
  4. After validation and dispensing of the medication to the patient, the pharmacist records the information in the dispensing system which uploads that information to the PES.



The Australian Digital Health Agency has provided the following specifications that apply to electronic prescribing described above:

Current Specifications: 

The Electronic Prescribing end product provides specification and guidance documents for software systems creating and processing prescriptions in electronic form.

Supporting Specifications: 

The supporting documents on this page provide background and guidance for healthcare provider organisations, and conformance, compliance and accreditation requirements for vendors.


The National Authentication Service for Health (NASH) makes it possible for healthcare providers and supporting organisations to securely access and exchange health information.
NASH provides Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) Certificates that help you or your organisation to:


The Secure Messaging Integration Toolkit contains libraries for B2B connectivity to Secure Message Delivery (SMD) and Endpoint Location Services (ELS), providing sample code for all operations, as well as a Medical Document Management (MDM) library to create the payload for SMD.

External Specifications: 
ATS4888.1 – Electronic Transfer of Prescriptions (Platform Independent Logical Information Model)
ATS4888.2 – Electronic Transfer of Prescriptions (Platform Independent Logical Services Model)
ATS4888.3 – Electronic Transfer of Prescriptions (e-Prescription CDA Implementation Guide)
ATS4888.4 – Electronic Transfer of Prescriptions (Dispense Record CDA Implementation Guide)
ATS4888.5 – Electronic Transfer of Prescriptions (Prescription Request CDA Implementation Guide)
ATS4888.6 – Electronic Transfer of Prescriptions (Implementation Specific Web Service)

By operation of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (Establishing the Australian Digital Health Agency) Rule 2016, on 1 July 2016, all the assets and liabilities of NEHTA will vest in the Australian Digital Health Agency. In this website, on and from 1 July 2016, all references to "National E-Health Transition Authority" or "NEHTA" will be deemed to be references to the Australian Digital Health Agency. PCEHR means the My Health Record, formerly the "Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record", within the meaning of the My Health Records Act 2012 (Cth), formerly called the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Act 2012 (Cth).

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