Funding for eScripts fee secured under 6CPA
The federal government has agreed to continue subsidising the electronic transfer of prescriptions (ETP) under the newly signed 6th Community Pharmacy Agreement (6CPA), committing to $12.7 million in the first year and a further $48.3 million over years two to five, subject to a cost-effectiveness study to be held next year.
Support for the use of ePrescriptions by pharmacists was first introduced in the 5CPA in 2010 through an electronic prescription fee (EPF) of 15c per transaction, which was paid by Medicare directly to pharmacists and covered the fee charged by the prescription exchange services, eRx and MediSecure.
This looks set to continue for the 2015-2016 financial year under the new 6CPA, although the agreement does not specify the exact fee. It does say that funding for community pharmacy programs such as the EPF will be subject to a cost-effectiveness assessment by an “independent health technology assessment body” similar to the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC).
Paul Naismith, CEO of the Fred IT Group, the parent company of eRx, said the agreement was good news for health users and health professionals.
“Electronic prescribing has become a vital part of the eHealth backbone, facilitating better communication between health professionals, more efficient work practices, and improved patient safety,” Mr Naismith said in a statement.
“We applaud the efforts of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Australian government in continuing to prioritise eHealth measures.”
eRx's figures show that 87 per cent of pharmacies now use its service and 72 per cent of doctors send ePrescriptions to eRx.
While ETP use has grown, it did have a slow start. The recent Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report into the 5CPA showed that there was a significant underspend of the $75.5 million originally set aside for a script incentive over the five years of the agreement.
While initially this may have been due to the original 10c difference in the fee charged and the incentive paid – eRx later lowered its 25c fee to 15c, meaning ETP is essential no cost to pharmacists – one of the major barriers was also the lack of interoperability between eRx and MediSecure.
The ANAO report showed that funds allocated to the EPF under the 5CPA were used for other purposes, including to fund a communication strategy for prescribers and dispensers to improve take up of the initiative.
In June 2012, the two prescription exchange services were paid a total of $1.32 million to make their systems interoperable, as well as a share in $8,361,460 in transaction fees.
Unspent funds were also reallocated to last year's electronic prescription scanning incentive (ePSI) which saw eligible pharmacies receive $800 on meeting a target scan rate of 15 per cent of prescriptions and $1200 if they met a 30 per cent scan rate.
There is no indication in the 6CPA if a new scanning incentive will be introduced.
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