March 31 saw some major changes to image-based subscriptions. Here’s a recap.
Two years of COVID-19 saw major health initiatives to help manage our first global pandemic in over 100 years. One major initiative the Australian federal government supported was the widespread rollout of Medicare-billable Telehealth to give lock-downed Australians access to health services.
This was received so positively, that the government went on to commit ongoing funding to Telehealth, effectively making it permanent. The natural corollary to this was creating a means for patients to receive and present prescriptions.
With the roll-out of e-prescriptions already gaining momentum, this sped up even more and is now in widespread use across the country. Where e-prescriptions were not available during the pandemic, image-based subscriptions were also allowed as an interim measure until e-prescriptions were more readily available.
However, this temporary measure came to an end on March 31, at least for Pharmacists. For those not caught up on what this means, here’s a recap.
What are image-based prescriptions?
As their name suggests, image-based prescriptions are an image of an original prescription. For the most part, image-based prescriptions are in the form of a fax or email, which could also mean a photo image of the prescription.
A messy transition period?
With so much of the health workforce under immense pressure during the pandemic, the early transition period from March 31 of phasing out image-based prescriptions potentially presented yet another pandemic headache to manage.
For those prescribers, patients and pharmacists not across this at the time of image-based prescriptions being wound down, while those with prescriptions dated prior to March 31 were still eligible to use them, others who had become accustomed to image-based prescriptions will have potentially been caught up in the transition period, leading to extra follow-up work to ensure that either a paper or e-prescription was issued.
But every transition is not without challenge, and now, a few months out, it’s likely that any issues have been mostly ironed out and left behind.
On the positive side…
The use of image-based prescriptions gave each state and territory time to bed in the use of e-prescriptions, which are now widely available.
For those patients who are not so tech-friendly, the image-based prescriptions also acted as a bridge to understanding and accepting e-prescriptions as the new normal for medication prescribing.
But there are some exceptions…
Despite the March 31 cut-off date, when it comes to hospitals, and the states of NSW and Victoria, the end of image-based prescriptions is not as clear-cut as it seems.
Hospitals were granted an extension of image-based prescribing until March 31, 2023. This means that hospital prescribers can choose to use image-based prescribing but must still create a paper prescription during the telehealth consultation.
A clear copy of the entire prescription can then be sent to the hospital pharmacy via email, text message or fax, with the paper prescription needing to be kept on file for a period of two years for audit and compliance purposes.
In a move that could create confusion for patients and prescribers, image-based prescriptions remain legal for private, non-PBS prescriptions until 30 September 2022.
This means that image-based prescriptions can be issued and dispensed for Schedule 4 medicines, except those in Appendix D (S4D medicines).
The public health emergency order (PHEO) #4 that allows digital image prescribing expires on 30 June 2022, meaning a slightly later end to the programme.
While this initially might cause some degree of confusion, it does allow for a longer transition period to e-prescriptions, which will ultimately be a positive.
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