A paper prescription signed by an approved prescriber is the current recognised legal instrument authorising medicines supply. Some paper prescriptions contain a barcode that allows prescription information to be securely and electronically transferred between the electronic prescribing and dispensing systems, for verification by the dispensing pharmacist against the paper prescription, reducing data entry and risk of transcription error. This is known as the electronic transfer of prescriptions (ETP).
From late 2019, electronic prescribing will provide an option for prescribers and their patients to have a digital prescription as an alternative to a paper-based prescription. Electronic prescriptions and paper prescriptions will co-exist. Electronic prescribing will not be mandatory, and patients and prescribers will be able to choose an electronic prescription.
Through the 2018/19 Commonwealth Budget, the Government announced support to upgrade the electronic prescribing software system used by clinicians to prescribe medicines. The Commonwealth Department of Health has overall accountability for the electronic prescribing project and requested technical support from the Agency in the development and management of the solution architecture and a conformance framework supporting the legal prescription and dispense of medicines and subsequent PBS claiming from electronic prescriptions.
The Agency, Health and the Department of Human Services (DHS) are undertaking implementation activities throughout 2019-2020 to support the enablement of electronic prescribing.
What is electronic prescribing?
Electronic prescribing is the process by which a prescription is electronically generated by a prescriber, securely transmitted to a prescription delivery service so that it is available for dispensing and supply, downloaded by a supplier, and integrated into the dispensing software. Where applicable, a record of supply can be electronically sent to Services Australia for PBS claiming purposes.
The implementation of electronic prescribing requires the development of regulatory and technical frameworks and changes to existing systems and software that will enable the safe and secure use of an electronic prescription as a legal alternative to a paper prescription.
1. Regulatory framework
The introduction of the electronic prescription as a legal form requires changes to Commonwealth legislation. The Department of Health will detail the form of the electronic prescription and the IT requirements for clinical software. Changes will also be made to the PBS claim for payment system to support the new arrangements.
The Commonwealth has engaged with the states and territories to ensure amendments are aligned across Commonwealth, state and territory legislation to deliver a nationally consistent electronic prescribing framework.
2. Technical framework
The Australian Digital Health Agency is developing the technical framework to support electronic prescriptions. This technical framework will detail the requirements for clinical software to ensure alignment with the legal framework, adhere to privacy and security principles and maintain patient choice. The technical framework will identify the clinical software changes and will be developed in consultation with the clinical software sector.
Changes to the PBS claim for payment system will be managed by Department of Human Services.
How will the Agency support implementation of electronic prescribing?
The Agency will provide software developers of electronic prescribing systems support to deliver electronic prescribing functionality. To participate in electronic prescribing, prescribing and dispensing software developers will be required to attest that their software meets the requirements expressed in the Electronic Prescribing Conformance Profile.
In developing new electronic prescribing functionality, software developers can access guidance on interpreting and understanding the technical documents developed via the Agency’s Developer Centre. These technical documents will include:
- Solution Architecture to provide an overview of the architectural components of the end-to-end national electronic prescribing system;
- Conformance Profile to summarise the functional and non-functional requirements for software that supports participation in electronic prescribing; and,
- Conformance Scheme which describes the scheme for assessing the conformance of software against the Conformance Profile involved in the electronic prescribing process
The Agency’s Developer Centre will host additional content to assist developers through the process from readiness through development, test, declaration of conformance, and operations.