WhatsApp with eScripts

Fred IT made the news this week with the launch of Australia’s first active script list (ASL), which Fred has dubbed My Script List (MySL). The system has been tested in Tasmania over the last few months and is now live for Tassie pharmacies using Fred’s dispense systems.

The other states and territories are due to follow in the next couple of months, although the system is not yet fully up and running for GPs as the practice management software vendors, who are constantly under the pump with requests for new features and functionality, still have a bit of work to do.

Pharmacists can sign up patients who they think would benefit from an active script list, which will let them view all of the active prescriptions the patient is on. The underlying platform is provided by the interoperable prescription exchange services, Fred-owned eRx and competitor MediSecure, both of which have put aside the rivalry to form a joint venture to operate MySL.

The interoperability between the two electronic transfer of prescriptions systems also forms the basis for the real-time prescription monitoring systems for drugs of addiction that are now rolling out nationwide, including SafeScript in Victoria and, just recently, South Australia’s ScriptCheckSA.

ASLs are the next step for electronic prescriptions from the token system launched last year and will probably eventually overtake what is already an ageing technology. And next cab off the rank is Fred’s WhatsApp idea, which will use the popular messaging app to allow patients to request their scripts be filled from their regular pharmacist, also using the MySL.

Using WhatsApp has raised a few eyebrows, what with it being owned by the nefarious Facebook and its new privacy policy getting it into some public relations trouble, but the app does have end-to-end encryption, is easy to use and, just as importantly, is widely used. Prescriptions certainly have come of age in a hurry.

The COVID-19 pandemic of course saw telehealth come of age around the world, and Australia’s government has taken a keen interest in it. Health Minister Greg Hunt even recently picked up a serious gong for his role in Australia’s pandemic response, being awarded a political leadership award from the University of Melbourne partly due to his steering of reforms to Medicare-funded telehealth.

This week saw those MBS items extended until the end of the year, but there is still no word on when they will be made permanent, which Mr Hunt keeps threatening to do. Meanwhile, item numbers for telephone consults have been cut, signalling that the Department of Health really wants doctors using video rather than audio. The items for audio consults for level A and B – which is the vast majority – have been retained but C and D are out. The doctors’ groups are up in arms, but that is certainly not new.

Telehealth is also being called upon to help with the unfolding disaster in India, where the latest surge of infections has seen its cases top 18 million amid the near collapse of the health system and a devastating lack of supplies of oxygen, ventilators and beds. So severe is the surge that India’s National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) has put out a call to clinicians, counsellors and mental health experts of Indian origin to help volunteer for a teleconsultation portal for children and their families.

Auckland GP Sandhya Ramanathan is hoping to take part and is planning to set up a WhatsApp group of volunteers to help. Indian-born, Australian-raised, New Zealand-domiciled Dr Ramanathan first came to attention last year when she made a YouTube video about home care for COVID-19, which subsequently went viral on the hugely popular WhatsApp. It has now been translated into 15 languages.

New Zealand Doctor journalist Fiona Cassie has been doing a superb job covering Dr Ramanathan’s story regularly throughout the pandemic. You can read all about here. Take a look as it’s a terrific yarn.

That brings us to our poll question for the week:

Would you use WhatsApp to order a script refill?

Vote here and feel free to leave your comments below.

Last week, we asked: Do you think digital health technologies will help New Zealand’s health reforms? Most did: 82 per cent said yes, 18 per cent said no.

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