DHS set to introduce online systems for PBS authority approval

The Department of Human Services (DHS) is considering using two online systems to further streamline the authority approval process for certain items on the schedule for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

In a letter seen by Pulse+IT, DHS says it is considering two online service delivery options to speed up the PBS authority approval process, which requires prescribers to request telephone or written approval before prescribing certain drugs or for higher doses or more repeats than normal.

Medicare introduced a streamlined system for many authority required medications in 2007, with the necessary PBS schedule codes included in prescribing software.

However, there are still about 120 medications that require phone authorisation from DHS before they can be prescribed for certain conditions or in higher doses. This has become a major irritant for many GPs, who complain that it is unnecessary red tape and a waste of consulting time.

In a recent submission to the government on cutting red tape, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) called for the scrapping of PBS phone authorisations completely.

The AMA said doctors using the free call service are “plagued by lengthy delays” despite the fact that less than three per cent of authority requests were denied.

It cited figures showing that about 500,000 calls are made each month, time that it said could be better spent on patient care, and that a review by the Department of Health when the streamlined arrangements were brought in showed there was no effect on prescribing behaviour.

The RACGP has also called for the streamlining of PBS authority medications for many years. RACGP president Frank Jones said the college has provided formal submissions to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) calling for system reform and outlining how the current authority prescribing system is unnecessarily bureaucratic, resulting in increased frequency of consultations simply to obtain authorisation for repeats.

“The RACGP has recommended an online portal be considered in place of, or alongside, the current phone authority system,” Dr Jones said. “This would reduce red tape and allow GPs to dedicate more time to patient care, without compromising the integrity or aims of the authority system."

However, he said the college had not been informed of any changes to the current system and would need to examine any changes in detail before commenting further.

DHS is now proposing to develop two methods to automate the process, including a direct solution that will be integrated into prescribing software, and another using DHS's Health Professionals Online Services (HPOS), through which doctors already conduct transactions with Medicare.

The proposed solutions would provide an online route for approved prescribers to obtain authority approval for the majority of general authority items and possibly for increased quantities and repeats, DHS said.

The current system for complex and restricted medications would continue for the time being, it said.

A fully integrated solution will require changes to prescribing software, with the department set to commence discussions with software vendors. DHS proposes that the integrated system would come online in November, with the changes to HPOS ready by January next year.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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