Community level electronic prescriptions

Electronic prescribing is currently being introduced and will provide a safe and secure alternative choice to paper prescriptions

On 31 October 2019, Commonwealth legislation changed to recognise electronic prescriptions as a legal prescription for the purpose of PBS-listed medicine supply. Electronic prescribing is part of a wider government strategy to support safer medicine management and improve the efficiency of the PBS. It will not be mandatory, but provides prescribers and their patients with a safe and secure alternative choice to paper prescriptions.

Electronic prescribing aims to:

  • improve efficiency in prescribing and dispensing medications
  • remove the need for handling and storing a physical paper prescription
  • support digital health services such as telehealth services to ensure continuity of patient care.

To support the legislative changes, technical upgrades are currently underway to ensure safe, secure and seamless transmission of information of electronic prescriptions between prescribing and dispensing clinical software and to PBS payment systems. Electronic prescriptions will be progressively available from mid-2020.

Once in place, two models will be available to support electronic prescription; Token and Active Script List. More information about the models including FAQs, eLearning courses and toolkits have been prepared by the Australian Digital Health Agency for prescribers and for pharmacists.

The Department of Health has prepared general information about the electronic prescribing initiative.

Image based supply of medicines

Under the Australian Government’s National Health Plan for COVID-19, and prior to the national roll-out of electronic prescribing, a special arrangement has been made that helps make the supply of medicine more convenient and effective following a telehealth consultation.

The special arrangement allows a prescriber to make a copy or an image of a paper prescription as part of a telehealth consultation. With the patients permission the prescriber may forward the copy or image of the prescription to the patient’s pharmacy of choice. The pharmacist can supply PBS medicines based on the copy or image of the prescription, and are able to make a PBS claim from the copy or image.

The paper prescription can also be sent by post to the patient, giving them (or a family member or friend) the flexibility to collect the medicine at their preferred pharmacy, and at a suitable time.

All states and territories allow image-based supply of medicine within their legal frameworks, however certain conditions apply. Health care professionals should consider state and territory rules when prescribing and supplying medicines. These rules can be found here.

This special arrangement is scheduled to cease on 31 March 2021. 

Departmental fact sheets about image-based medicine supply are available for prescribers, pharmacists and consumers.