How electronic prescriptions will revolutionise healthcare
Exclusive: Patients will be able to have a script issued and filled without leaving their front door from September.
Under federal government changes, GPs and specialists will be able to consult with a patient over the phone and send their prescription electronically as a barcode via text or email.
And later this year, the electronic prescriptions will be stored in the cloud on an Active Script List and a chemist will be able to download the information with the patient's consent.
If the pharmacist home delivers, medicines can be sent directly to a patient's home or they can click and collect them from their store of choice.
Electronic prescriptions will not be mandatory and patients will still be able to receive paper prescriptions - just not both.
However, ePrescriptions could make it easier for consumers to access cheaper prescriptions from online and discount pharmacies that are not in their neighbourhood.
The new ePrescriptions are currently being trialled in 17 communities in the ACT, Victoria, NSW, Tasmania, Western Australia, and Queensland.
Another 22 regions will commence using the scripts soon.
The first trial eScript was dispensed in May 2020, and so far 20 doctors and 166 community pharmacies have prescribed and dispensed over 2000 ePrescriptions.
The introduction of the scheme has been sped up to help reduce human contact and protect those most at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Health said patients can forward the barcode to the pharmacy of their choice "and if their pharmacy of choice has a home delivery service the patient may request for medicines to be home delivered".
The federal government is covering the cost of Australia Post medicine home deliveries to people in isolation with COVID-19, those aged over 70, pregnant women or people with babies.
Those with chronic conditions who are immunocompromised and indigenous Australians aged over 50 are also getting free of charge deliveries during the pandemic.
Online pharmacies like Chemist Warehouse charge $10 for home deliveries while some local suburban pharmacies provide a free home delivery service for some patients.
Chemist Warehouse and Discount Drug Stores COVID-19 which operate online said there had been a huge increase in online orders since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chemist Warehouse's chief operating officer Mario Tascone said the new ePrescriptions were "a game changer for our online business" because online pharmacies no longer had to wait for people to post in their paper scripts or present them to bricks and mortar stores.
He said Chemist Warehouse would participate in upcoming trials of the new system.
Patrick Stoll the head of Discount Drug Stores said customers who rarely shopped online before the pandemic were "turning to this channel during these times for reasons of safety and convenience".
"As a result we have seen a dramatic increase in online purchases," he said.
Consumers Health Forum chief Leanne Wells said ePrescribing was still in its very early stages.
"Until there is widespread adoption, consumers need to be realise that an electronic prescription can only be dispensed in a restricted number of pharmacies," she said.
An eScript and paper script cannot coexist simultaneously, so there is no risk of customers chemist shopping for drugs.
Under PBS rules, patients cannot get a repeat of a script filled until 20 days have passed since the last one was filled.
Originally published as How electronic prescriptions will revolutionise healthcare