Pharmacies will start submitting prescription claims via electronic network within the next month.
About 100 pharmacies throughout the country have been trialling a system for submitting claims on floppy disk and next month will start sending claims electronically over a private network. The Health Funding Authority (HFA) aims to have the country's approximately 1000 pharmacies using the new system by the middle of next year.
Maurice Dubey, project manager with North Health Funding Authority, says that doesn't leave much time to roll the project out and will involve adding about nine pharmacies a week.
"We have to have a highly organised implementation process. Not only do pharmacies have to be trained on the new IT systems, they have to learn a new way of claiming."
The HFA is working with the Pharmaceutical Society, the Pharmacy Guild, Pharmac and the country's three major pharmacy software vendors — Zuellig Pharmaceuticals, Lockie Computing Systems and Toniq — in running training sessions.
Dubey says the next step will be to provide electronic remittance whereby pharmacists are sent a remittance file containing information on payments, variances in payment and rejected claims that will be loaded straight into their computer systems. This will aid pharmacists with reconciling their accounts and claims.
Further down the line GPs, who already claim reimbursements electronically, will generate prescriptions, give a copy to the patient and send an electronic copy to a central secure "holding pen". Patients will then go to a pharmacist, identify themselves and the chemist will download the prescription.
The scheme will enable pharmacists and GPs to cross-reference all medicine that the patient is prescribed to help avoid drug interactions and waste.
Dubey says not only will the new electronic system eliminate error by cutting out the need for manual data entry, but it will increase efficiency for both the pharmacists and the HFA. At the moment, 35 million prescriptions are written each year and country's drug bill is $800 million a year.