Community Pharmacy deal to fund e-prescribing adoption

Announced as part of the “in principle” agreement reached between The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Federal Government in January, the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement is to include provisions for the funding of electronic prescribing. While prescribers in Australia have long used computers and clinical software to print scripts, modern electronic prescribing systems introduced by eRx Script Exchange and MediSecure in 2009 now also allow prescription data to be transferred to community pharmacies via centralised “script hubs”.

In response to the prospect of funding, Chairman of eRx Script Exchange, Graham Cunningham, said, “We congratulate The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Federal Health Minister on their foresight in backing the e-prescription concept and benefits that will result. This ongoing support endorses the benefits of e-prescriptions and will make a significant difference to patient care by ensuring that the most accurate and efficient dispensing becomes available to all Australians.”

Dispelling an inaccurate report published in the Financial Review shortly after news of the Agreement emerged, the Pharmacy Guild confirmed that all commercial e-prescribing services — as opposed to only the Guild-endorsed eRx venture — will be eligible for 15c per script government funded payments.

Current funding for the operation of the eRx infrastructure is being provided by the Guild and the Australian Friendly Society Pharmacies Association, who have funded the dispensing of 10.6 million and 500,000 scripts respectively. Previous to the government funding revelations eRx had plans to charge to pharmacists 25c per dispensed script at the completion of the subsidised script period, however it is not known if this price will be revised in light of the new source of funding.

The eRx service commenced public operation in April 2009, with Best Practice being the first clinical software developer to enable their system to interact with the script hub. Accelerated by the progressive rollout of eRx infrastructure in more pharmacies and general practices since the service was launched, the volume of scripts sent and dispensed via the system has risen dramatically, particularly in recent months. By the middle of January this year, 7.5 million scripts had been sent to the eRx script hub by prescribers, with 1.7 million of these having subsequently been dispensed. Significantly, these volumes are more than double the total number achieved by the system at the end of November, indicating that roughly 1.5 million scripts per month are being transmitted to the eRx script hub alone.

It is expected that this transaction rate will increase dramatically in the coming weeks on account of HCN’s expected release of an eRx compatible version of its market leading Medical Director clinical software. Other clinical software developers, including Genie Solutions, Houston Medical, Virtual Practice and Zedmed are also expected to support eRx throughout the year, having signed agreements with the company at various stages throughout 2009.

Capacity at the pharmacy end of the electronic script journey has also been bolstered during the summer months, with five pharmacy dispensing software developers now accredited to commence rolling out interfaces to the eRx system, namely Fred Health, LOTS, Simple Retail, minfos and AMPAC.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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