Saturday, July 20, 2024

Govt writes off paper prescriptions

The nation’s e-Prescription Service is being expanded to make it easier for people to get the medicines they need, Health Minister, Andrew Little has announced.

The New Zealand e-Prescription Service is an electronic health information exchange broker operated by the Ministry of Health. Doctors and other prescribers send prescriptions to the service through a secure channel, and they are then sent on to pharmacies to be dispensed.

“Sending prescriptions electronically makes sense because it can be faster, safer, cheaper and more convenient, but until recently, it was hardly ever done,” Minister Little told the Digital Health Association at an event in Parliament yesterday.

“The COVID-19 pandemic changed that, with the number of GP practices using the official Government e-Prescription Service jumping from 415 in March 2020 to 1038 in March this year. The number of eScripts issued went from 624,300 to 1,559,427.

“But it’s still a bit tricky, and can’t be used for the prescription of any controlled drugs such as morphine, which is why I am pleased to announce we are expanding the e-Prescription Service.”

Prescriptions for controlled drugs will no longer be required in hard copy, with a physical signature.

And for medicines for some chronic conditions like ADHD, prescribers will be able to increase the period of time covered by a single ePrescription, reducing the number of times patients need to visit a GP for repeat prescriptions.

It will also cut reduce administration costs for medical practices, which will no longer have to print, send and store hard-copy prescriptions, said Minister Little.

“Digital innovation is central to unlocking the full potential of our reformed health system. Health technologies are changing all the time. We need to think about how we can use them to work smarter to help all New Zealanders get the healthcare they need,” Mr Little said.

He said electronic medicines management systems have been shown to significantly reduce the number of patients harmed by medication errors and adverse drug events by:

  • Eliminating illegible, ambiguous or incomplete prescriptions;
  • Providing a single and comprehensive view of a patient’s current and historical drug record.
  • Providing real-time decision support to guide and improve the appropriateness and accuracy of prescribing,
  • Improving communication of real-time information between prescribers, pharmacy and nursing.

The changes are expected to be in place by the end of the year, and will be especially helpful for people who find visiting a doctor to get a prescription difficult because they live a long way away or they can’t afford it, the Minister said.

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