The planned fast-tracking of electronic prescriptions will cause unnecessary chaos and be a backward step for patient care at exactly the wrong time, according to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
The imminent fast-tracking of the electronic prescriptions (FTEP) is part of the Government’s COVID-19 National Health Plan.
On behalf of the community pharmacists working in thousands of pharmacies across Australia, the Pharmacy Guild cannot support the introduction of a measure that will impose further significant disruption at a time when community pharmacies are already under intense pressures to support their patients during COVID-19.
The proposed fast-track introduction of the ‘token’ model for electronic prescriptions is the wrong move at a time when the system and pharmacy network is clearly not ready and experiencing unprecedented challenges.
The untested system, under which prescriptions would be conveyed by ‘tokens’ sent to patients by text or email, presents unnecessary risks to patient care and will impose unwarranted disruption to the administrative and clinical workflow of both prescribers and community pharmacies already having to adjust to new arrangements in support of the COVID-19 National Health Plan.
The COVID –19 emergency has already seen significant rapid changes introduced to address the need for self-isolation and telemedicine, including prescriptions being sent as a photo image by email, facsimile and in some States text message, directly from prescribers to community pharmacies. The high number of prescriptions being dispensed through these telehealth measures demonstrates that patients are continuing to have ready access to their medicines without the need, at this stressful time, for a token-based electronic prescription which would severely test pharmacy systems and cause confusion and potential medication misadventure for many patients, particularly the elderly and chronically ill.
From the pharmacy patient perspective, the electronic prescription token system is not suited to patients on multiple medications and will cause further disruption and confusion, especially for those patients not familiar with the required technologies to manage their multiple ‘tokens’. These patients rely on their community pharmacy to help them manage their complex medication regime, not devices and multiple text messages or emails.
This is why the Guild has recommended, through the Electronic Prescribing National Change and Adoption Working Group, that the alternative model known as the Active-Script List (ASL) be prioritised as it best supports a patient’s access to their medicines via electronic prescribing and best enables the community pharmacy to support this access. Under the ASL system, the patient’s ‘active’ prescriptions can be authorised for access by the patient’s chosen community pharmacy without the need for a token or multiple tokens to be self-managed by the patient.
While the Guild will continue to be a strong supporter and contributor to the national electronic prescriptions project, it recommends the FTEP (Token) be removed from the COVID-19 National Health Plan in favour of the ASL model, and that maintaining patient access to medicines during COVID-19 is achievable by the appropriate resourcing and funding of the current COVID-19 measures.