Doctor-shopping service not new: DHS

The prescription shopping hotline run by the Department of Human Services (DHS) has not recently been extended and is different to the Electronic Recording and Reporting of Controlled Drugs (ERRCD) initiative launched earlier this year.

Contrary to several media reports last week, the DHS's prescription shopping program, which offers a Prescription Shopping Information Service (PSIS) to prescribers, has not been extended and is not “modelled on a system pioneered in Tasmania”, a DHS spokeswoman said.

The PSIS has been available for some time and allows registered prescribers to query the PBS prescription history of their patients. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provides real-time data on PBS history.

Prescribers must register for the service and then phone the 1800 631 181 hotline to request information on a patient. Information can be provided over the phone or the prescriber can ask for a PBS patient summary to be sent to them. They can also check through a secure web portal after the initial phone call. Doctors can only check the history of their own patients.

The system “modelled in Tasmania” is the ERRCD initiative, which covers Schedule 8 drugs such as opiates. That system is aimed at speeding up the collection of information from pharmacists under the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (SUSMP).

The DHS spokeswoman said the prescription shopping program is similar to the ERRCD but includes all PBS medicines supplied to patients, not just those listed under the SUSMP.

The ERRCD system relates to the dispensing of Schedule 8 drugs, which must be registered on dangerous drugs registers known as DD Books. These registers are manually recorded and maintained within the pharmacy and copies of the prescriptions are sent to state and territory health departments at regular intervals. The registers must be available for inspection by health departments and the police.

At the moment, this is done manually and faxed or posted to the relevant health authorities. This often means data is analysed up to six to eight weeks after a prescription has been dispensed.

The new system will allow alerts to be sent in real time to pharmacists and will also allow GPs and pharmacists to check up on a particular patient's prescribing history. It will also automatically collect details of all Schedule 8 prescriptions and send them to state health departments in real time.

It was developed in Tasmania and a licence for it was purchased by the federal government in February this year. It was made available to each state and territory jurisdiction in July, and according to a spokesman for the Minister Health, Tanya Plibersek, it is now up to each jurisdiction to implement it.

Pulse+IT is currently contacting the state health departments to gauge their progress in implementing the system.

A spokesperson for NSW Health said that currently, the ERRCD had not been implemented by NSW or universally rolled out throughout Australia.

“NSW is currently undertaking an assessment of the system and what would be required to adapt it for the NSW regulatory framework,” the spokesperson said.

“The uptake of the system by the States and Territories will be dependent on local legislation and systems already in place and the logistics of implementation and size of the community pharmacy sector.

“NSW has a state-based regulatory system which allows for investigation of Schedule 8 drug prescription supplies. The ERRCD system would enhance the existing systems.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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