PharmCIS PBS system to include medicines terminology

The federal government will introduce its long-promised Pharmaceutical Consolidated Information System (PharmCIS) in December, with Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data now referencing NEHTA's Australian Medicines Terminology (AMT).

The launch of PharmCIS, originally slated for release in October 2011, “was delayed to ensure all downstream data users are ready to accept the new data formats”, according to the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA).

Updated PBS data will now be delivered to users in XML format, rather than the previous plain text format.

PBS data is managed by DoHA's PharmBiz division, which collects and disseminates data from a range of internal and external sources. The PBS is updated every month.

According to DoHA, PharmCIS is designed to improve the efficiency of submission processing by consolidating existing systems and processes into a single authoritative source of information about the PBS, improve the consistency and accuracy of price changes in the PBS and support consistent decision-making via more readily available information.

For prescribers and dispensers, PharmCIS aims to improve the specification and management of restrictions by increasing clarity for prescribers and dispensers and introducing machine encoding.

It will also support broader eHealth initiatives by mapping to NEHTA's AMT codes, which is necessary for implementing developments such as the electronic transfer of prescriptions (ETP).

PharmBiz will not produce a schedule in November to allow the introduction of AMT descriptors in the PBS data, with the December 1 2012 schedule the first to reference the AMT. The October 1 PBS schedule will remain current until November 30.

Margaret Gehrig, national business manager for medicines information provider MIMS, said the introduction of the new system would have no effect on MIMS processes as MIMS already receives and can handle both XML and text formats.

“We take the PBS as a file and we incorporate the PBS information into all of the drug-related information, and we bring that information in (to MIMS) every month,” Ms Gehrig said. “In terms of us bringing the PBS into our reference product, there will be no difference. It will be business as usual.”

MIMS editors have been mapping MIMS data to the AMT for last two years, so that will make no difference either, she said.

The director of strategy and operations at Health Communication Network (HCN), Tania Taylor, said HCN saw the move towards an XML feed as a positive step. HCN has its own drug reference product, MDRef, while many other clinical software packages use MIMS.

“There is no impact on HCN products and besides some testing on our side, we do not have to make changes to Medical Director,” she said.

Frank Pyefinch, CEO of Best Practice, said his company is prepared to incorporate AMT as soon as MIMS has completed the mapping.

“We are including it in the MedView project, one of the Wave 2 projects, so in the XML that we send up to MedView we are including AMT codes that MIMS have given us,” he said. “We are pretty much ready to go as soon as they are ready to go.”

He said the move to XML in the PBS data would make processes faster as the text files require some manual correction, such as fixing fields that have commas in the text. Best Practice will need to rewrite some of its routines to process the XML files but Dr Pyefinch said it would mean a more reliable import in the long run.

“We've had access to the XML files for quite some time and we theoretically could have been working on that but we haven't had time,” he said.

He said one benefit of the XML files is that they include notifications of streamlined authority for repeat prescriptions that no longer require telephone approval from Medicare. End users will see no difference, he said.

A DoHA spokeswoman said the department was working with software vendors on the technology and system requirements for the transition to the new system.

“Further details on the look and feel of the new system will be provided to all stakeholders over the coming months,” she said.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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