Electronic prescriptions

What nurses need to know

Electronic prescriptions are being rolled out this year in Australia. The new electronic prescriptions will give patients an easy and convenient alternative to paper prescriptions for their medicines.

The Australian Government has accelerated the introduction of electronic prescribing, which forms part of the National Health Plan for COVID-19. This supports telehealth consultations and helps protect healthcare providers and patients from infection.

Providing a practice has conformant software, patients can be sent their prescription electronically via SMS or email. This removes the need for patients to present in person at a general practice to get a prescription.

Electronic prescriptions are not compulsory. They simply give patients greater choice in how they access their medicines. Paper prescriptions will still be available.

When will electronic prescriptions be available?

Electronic prescriptions are currently available in test sites called communities of interest and will become available to general practices more broadly in September 2020. NOTE: The rollout of electronic prescriptions is being expanded across greater Melbourne in August to support those people most at risk of COVID-19. The immediate focus is on general practices and community pharmacies. Find out more

How does it work?

When a prescriber creates an electronic prescription, they generate a 'token' with a unique QR code that is sent to the patient's phone or computer by SMS or email. The encrypted token is unlocked when it is scanned at the dispensing pharmacy. If the patient has a prescription repeat, they will receive a new token from the pharmacy that replaces the original token.

What else does it involve?

By the end of the year, pharmacies will also be able to access and dispense from an 'Active Script List'. This provides a list of all the patient's current prescriptions, including repeats, without needing to present a token. To get their medicines this way, patients will need to prove their identity to the pharmacy and provide consent for the pharmacy to view their prescriptions.

Who can collect medicines?

Patients can present their token in person for scanning at their pharmacy. Otherwise, as is currently the case with paper prescriptions, a family member or agent may also collect medicines on behalf of a patient. The patient will need to send them the token beforehand so they can give it to the pharmacy to unlock the electronic prescription.

Home delivery

Patients are advised to check if their pharmacy does home delivery. If so, they can forward their electronic prescription token to the pharmacy and there is no need to attend in person.

Update records

To prepare for electronic prescribing, patients need to ensure their email, mobile number and address are up to date with their general practice and pharmacy. They should also check that their pharmacy can take electronic prescriptions and, if required, check that their pharmacy is delivering medicines.

Support from APNA

APNA is developing a Nurse Know-How video about electronic prescribing in collaboration with the Australian Digital Health Agency. Meanwhile, watch this website for updates and refer to the following resources for further information.


Australian Digital Health Agency - Electronic Prescriptions

Australian Digital Health Agency - Electronic Prescriptions for Prescribers

Australian Government Department of Health - Electronic Prescribing


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