Transition to PharmCIS holds up December PBS updates

Doctors and pharmacists will have to manually check changes to the December PBS schedule for the next couple of weeks as the rollout of the government's new PharmCIS system has held up the regular PBS schedule updates from prescribing and dispensing software.

The Department of Health and Ageing is introducing PharmCIS to streamline the collection of data that goes into the monthly updates of the PBS, amongst other benefits. DoHA planned to roll out PharmCIS in December and did not provide a November update in order to prepare for the new system. The October schedule remained current for the month of November.

However, the transition to the full PharmCIS system has meant that the updates to the December schedule have not reached software vendors in time for them to prepare their automatic updates by December 1.

Doctors and pharmacists can download or print the updated schedule now available on the PBS website to check for changes such as new prices, brand name changes or newly listed or delisted products. The schedule is available in text or XML file format.

MIMS national business manager Margaret Gehrig said the company needs the PBS data by the middle of the preceding month in order to incorporate it into its system, which is then sent to the software vendors that use MIMS as its drugs reference solution.

“We were able to send it early this week but that was not enough time for the vendors to incorporate the changes into their prescribing and dispensing programs,” Ms Gehrig said. “This will mainly affect dispensers because of the price changes.”

MIMS has updated the content in its reference products so there will be no problems with patient safety, Ms Gehrig said.

It is expected that the updated schedule will be available from within prescribing and dispensing software by December 14.

Doctors and pharmacists will notice a change to the terminology used to describe medicines. The new system is using the Australian Medicines Terminology (AMT), which provides drugs with a universal name and a numerical identifier that is unique.

According to the PBS publications team at DoHA, the new descriptions identify the medicine including the pack size. "Because now the name of the drug includes the pack size, the maximum quantity is displayed as the number packs of the medicine," it said.

"So if a medicine comes in a pack of 20 tablets and has a maximum quantity of “two” that means the maximum quantity is two packs of 20, or 40 tablets. Maximum quantities have not changed, just the way we describe them. As this change is unfamiliar we have included the old measure of “maximum quantity” which details the maximum quantity of units."

In an email to users, Medical Director vendor HCN said the delay in providing the updated data would mean the company could not provide its regular update through MDRef by tomorrow. HCN said it was “working around the clock” to have the update ready by December 10.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Ageing said PharmCIS has been introduced to replace over 40 existing data systems, some of which had been in use for nearly 20 years.

“The government has been strongly committed to providing these regular PBS updates even though this has created a particularly challenging environment in which to undertake the upgrade to the IT system for the PBS,” the spokeswoman said.

“Instead of suspending the updating of the PBS for multiple months to facilitate this major IT upgrade, the government adopted an IT contingency planning approach. The contingency plan has had to be enacted because the complexity of the transition to the new system saw the transmission of data to software vendors a few days later than was expected.

“The approach involves the phased roll out of software for prescribers and dispensers, and has been advised through all stakeholders and through the PBS website.”

HCN has posted a form letter (PDF) designed by DoHA and sent to software vendors to provide to their dispensing and prescribing customers explaining the delay.

“While not all prescribers and pharmacies will have fully up to date software for 1 December, the correct PBS prices will be available on where a print version can be downloaded to enable correct dispensing scripts that were modified by the 1 December changes to the PBS Schedule,” the letter states.

The PBS Online Claiming system has been updated so claims for new items, new brands of existing items and price changes will be able to be claimed at the correct price. However, community pharmacies are being requested to hold off submitting their claims until their software has been updated so the 2012 safety net arrangements are not disrupted.

For prescribers, the majority of items on the PBS have not changed so they can continue to use the October update currently in their software to produce a new script. However, if doctors want to prescribe a new or amended drug, they will need to hand-write a script.

The DoHA spokeswoman said patients will not be affected. “[P]atient access to new and existing listings is totally unaffected, and new listings have the support of a manual work-around where this may be necessary in a very small number of cases,” she said.

She said all stakeholders and providers had worked collaboratively with the department to transition to the new system. “They understand the processes in place to support the phased release.”

Ms Gehrig said the Medical Software Industry Association (MSIA) had done an excellent job in communicating the delays to vendors.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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