National ePrescribing trial gets underway after delays

With security issues raised by pharmacists addressed, trial will go ahead

After years of debate and dispute between the various parties involved, the new National Health IT Board has launched a national geographic trial for community ePrescribing.

Simpl Group, which had developed an engine for a similar programme in Australia, has won the business. There were five responses to the tender.

Previously, there had been resistance to ePrescribing by the Pharmacy Guild, which was concerned about security. Those concerns have been addressed.

There will be a 12-month trial over four geographic regions that will cost somewhat less than $1 million, says project lead Shane Hunter.

The patient will be given a signed, barcoded paper script, which will also be electronically submitted by a prescribers’ system to a transaction broker. Simpl will be the broker in the trial.

Hunter says that when the patient presents the script to a pharmacist, the pharmacist will download the prescription from the broker, verify the script, populate the system with the details and the request, then dispense the medication.

The dispensing details are sent to the broker. The prescribing and dispensing transactions are then sent to agreed clinical data repositories as appropriate.

All data will be compliant with the recently introduced Universal List of Medicines.

Hunter says representatives of all parties involved have agreed there are clear benefits to all and have confirmed their support for the service. A consumer representative will be added to the group.

The first trial will begin in February.

Hunter says some of the potential benefits identified are:

• Safer, because prescriptions are more accurate

• Safer, because potential drug interactions or allergic reactions can be more reliably caught before they happen

• Safer, because electronic prescriptions reduce manual data entry and therefore transcription errors

• Facilitates generic prescribing

• Fewer hospital admissions, because prescribers and pharmacists can monitor patient adherence

• Better productivity for pharmacists

• Improves the quality of patient medication history information and the information use for analysis purposes.

“The Australian system is producing far fewer errors and reduces script processing time by up to 90 seconds,” Hunter says.

After the trials, the system is expected to be rolled out in 2012.

More background about the ePrescribing initiative can be found here.

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