Electronic prescriptions in public hospitals: WA leads the way


By Michael Woodhead

18 Aug 2022

Specialists in WA will be the first in Australia to use electronic prescriptions in public hospitals that can be dispensed at community pharmacies.

According to the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA), an electronic prescription program will be rolled out to all specialties at the Royal Perth Hospital following an initial 12-week trial in  Haematology outpatient clinics in addition to Gastroenterology, Immunology, Anaesthesia & Pain Medicine departments.

During the trial, registered prescribers can generate an electronic prescription when needed for their patients. Patients will receive an SMS or email message with a token they can either present in person or forward electronically to their local pharmacy to receive supply of their medicine.

“At the end of the Royal Perth Hospital trial, there will be a full-scale evaluation involving feedback from patients, clinicians and pharmacists to help inform further rollout plans for WA Health,” said CEO Amanda Cattermole.

“This is a fabulous development for hospital outpatients to make their lives a little easier upon leaving hospital with proven digital technology,” she said.

According to the ADHA, the initiative will bring public hospitals into the digital health landscape alongside primary care.

It noted that while this is the first trial of electronic prescriptions in a metropolitan hospital setting in Australia, nearly 72 million electronic prescriptions have been issued by 45,000 prescribers including GPs and nurse practitioners.

More than 98% of all community pharmacies around the country are dispensing electronic prescriptions, and there have been nearly 392,000 registrations for Active Script Lists, which is a consolidated list of all the medicines a patient can have their pharmacy dispense for them.

“Electronic prescriptions are now available to most Australians as an alternative to a paper prescription. Many people are choosing electronic prescriptions for convenience. Electronic prescriptions became critical during the pandemic and a spate of natural disasters that meant patients could not get to see their doctor in person,” the ADHA said in a statement released on 15 August.

A spokesperson for the Royal Perth Hospital said electronic prescribing would be a useful additional option for patients and clinicians using telehealth.

“As we are now delivering more healthcare virtually via video and phone call appointment, the ability to also provide patients with their medication scripts electronically enables us to be far more responsive. Patients receive their script in real time, straight away, no more waiting for them to be posted out,” they said.

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