Telehealth for Pharmacies


MedicRelief is committed to keeping pharmacies informed throughout the rapidly evolving coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Through this webpage, we will keep you informed with the latest information as it becomes available. It contains links to up-to-date information, guidance and resources from governments and other trusted sources for pharmacists and their patients.

Medication reviews can now be conducted over Telehealth

From Tuesday 21 April 2020, pharmacists will be able to conduct HMRs, RMMRs, MedsChecks and Diabetes MedsChecks via telehealth. Read more here.

Electronic Transfer of Prescription

Electronic Transfer of Prescription (ETP) involves the creation of an electronic message (alongside a legal paper prescription) which is transmitted to a prescription exchange service (PES). A pharmacy can then dispense the medications from the paper prescription, but supported by electronically retrieving the prescription details from the PES to improve efficiency and reduce the opportunity for errors transcribing prescription information from paper.

Although at MedicRelief, we have already pioneered Electronic Transfer of Prescription using our own proprietary system since 2019, it would appear from Digital Health Australia’s recent announcement that their plan are in-line with our implementation but there are still further improvements required for overseas use.

To make things clear, at the moment in Australia, the advice is for vendors to use specifications for ETP Level 1 from ATS4888.2-2013, which allows transfer of electronic prescriptions (from paper prescriptions) in a nationally consistent manner.

Figure 1: Electronic Transfer of Prescription flow (Credit: Australian Digital Health Agency)

Electronic Transfer of Prescription flow

  1. The prescribing clinician, after consultation with the patient, prescribes the patient their medication. This information is captured in the clinician’s local system and a paper prescription is handed to the patient.

  2. The prescribing system uploads the prescription to a prescription exchange service (PES).

  3. The dispensing pharmacist receives the paper prescription from the patient and, retrieves the prescription from the PES.

  4. The pharmacist, after validating and dispensing the medication to the patient, records the information in the dispensing system, which uploads that information to the PES.

Electronic Prescribing – For Prescribers

Although MedicRelief has already implemented nationwide & international digital prescribing by utilising our own proprietary system, under the National Health Plan for COVID-19, the Australian Government has announced that it will accelerate the delivery of electronic prescribing which will be progressively available from the end of May 2020. It would appear at this stage, this implementation of electronic prescribing may involve different forms of prescriptions.

Electronic prescribing will not be mandatory, patients will have a choice to receive either an electronic or a paper prescription from their prescriber (but not both). Electronic prescribing will continue to support a patient’s right to choose their prescriber and pharmacy to supply their medicines.

Two models for Electronic Prescriptions

There will be two models available to support Electronic Prescribing, which include the Token Model and the Active Script List Model. Only the Token Model will be available from end of May 2020 with the Active Script List Model expected to be available from the end of 2020.

Figure 2: Two models for Electronic Prescriptions (Credit: Australian Digital Health Agency)

Token Model: The solution for the delivery of electronic prescribing has been accelerated and will be progressively available from the end of May 2020 and will see a unique QR barcode known as a ‘token’ sent via an app (if your patient has one), SMS or email. A token is not a legal prescription, but it can be used by an authorised pharmacy to unlock the legal prescription.

Active Script List Model: By the end of this year, more functionality will be available in addition to the token. Under this model pharmacists will be able to access a patient’s electronic prescription by retrieving it from an Active Script List (ASL). The patient must prove their identity to the pharmacist. The ASL is expected to overcome the issue of lost tokens and assist medication management and adherence, especially for patients who are using multiple medicines.

Benefits of Electronic Prescribing

Benefits of electronic prescribing extend to the patient, healthcare provider and more broadly at a system level. These include:

  • Reducing administrative burden for healthcare providers and organisations (e.g. more effective management of prescription refill requests).

  • Supplementing delivery of Telehealth services to ensure continuity of patient care.

  • Providing an opportunity to protect community members and healthcare providers from exposure to infectious diseases (e.g. COVID-19).

  • Maintaining patient privacy and integrity of personal information.
  • Resources: Department of Health – Electronic Prescribing

    Digital Image Prescribing & ePrescribing

    The Commonwealth Department of Health is working with software providers for healthcare practitioners to fast-track the upgrade of clinical software so that it supports electronic prescribing. It is anticipated that this will be ready (for 80% of general practices and community pharmacies) by May 2020.

    At MedicRelief, we were already ahead of the curve when it comes to e-Prescribing as this system has already been in use since 2019 in Australia as well as in other countries.

    However, it is important to understand that as an interim arrangement prior to the implementation of ePrescribing, the Australian government has put in place a Special Arrangement to support patients to access prescription medicines via telehealth arrangements while confined to their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The legislative instruments are National Health (COVID-19 Supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits) Special Arrangement 2020 and National Health (COVID-19 Supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits) Amendment (Expansion of Telehealth and Telephone Attendances) Special Arrangement 2020.

    The current advice from the Department of Health can be accessed here. Pharmacists should check advice from their specific state or territory health department to determine which aspects of this Commonwealth measure have been incorporated into their local legislation. PSA is continuing to closely work with Commonwealth, state and territory departmental staff and will update this page as information comes to hand.

    As of 17 April 2020, the only jurisdictions not to have enacted the necessary regulatory changes to enable dispensing of prescriptions from a digital image is Queensland. For all other states and territories the supply of medicines under this special arrangement must be consistent with the regulations in your practising state or territory.

    To support pharmacist in navigating these changes relevant to your practice jurisdiction PSA has prepared a Summary of COVID-19 regulatory changes.Summary of COVID-19 regulatory changes

    For more information, please also visit Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) for their state-by-state breakdown and recommendations for Digital image prescriptions in Australia.

    The following are some relevant COVID-19 National Health Plan fact sheets in relation to prescriptions via telehealth from the Australian Government’s Department of Health…

    COVID-19 National Health Plan – prescriptions via telehealth – a guide for pharmacists.

    COVID-19 National Health Plan – prescriptions via telehealth – a guide for prescribers.

    COVID-19 National Health Plan – prescriptions via telehealth – a guide for patients.

    COVID-19 webinar recordings now available

    For further information, please also visit the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) for their COVID-19 webinar series.

    This information was last updated Thursday, 7th of May 2020