Electronic prescriptions explained

In episode 47 of YourLifeChoices’ Mind Your Own Retirement podcast, host John Deeks was joined by chief medical officer for the Australian Digital Health Agency Meredith Makeham to discuss electronic prescriptions.

Read the transcript below.

John Deeks: Welcome. With so much talk of technology across this crazy COVID-19 time, something like My Health Record is even more important.
Meredith Makeham: I couldn’t agree more, John, it really is. And speaking with my GP head on, I practise as a GP in Sydney as well, it’s really coming into its own now. The value and the benefit that we get out of being able to use digital technology to support the way we are caring for our patients, particularly in this time where we are trying to use telehealth and all of the things that go with that. So, there’s a lot of things that our digital infrastructure in the country, like the My Health Record system, like something called electronic prescribing that’s about to come out.

John: Tell me about that. So, I have Thyroxine and a few other odds and sods, so does that mean I can just get my doctor to prescribe it to me electronically?

MM: Yes, there’s going to be a way for your doctor, if they’ve got the right system in their practice, and that’s probably going to be about 80 per cent of the community of pharmacists and GPs by roughly the end of May. There’s going to be a way for them to have a phone consultation or a video consultation with you, write a prescription for you as they normally would, and that prescription will come to you on your mobile phone in a form that we call a ‘token’. Kind of like one of those QR codes that you see that people scan for things. And that’s got all the information about your prescription in it.

You share that with your pharmacist – there’s a way for that to get to your pharmacist while you’re still at home – and then the pharmacist can just send that medicine and have it delivered to you at home. So, we’ve tried to come out with these new digital solutions that mean we can support people who need to stay in their homes and remain in the social isolation measures that we got in place at the moment. We want to make sure that people, particularly older people, don’t need to leave home if at all possible and go into a practice if things can be done like using telehealth, and electronic prescribing and, of course, the My Health Record system, which is a great ultimate information for GPs to look at as well and get a wealth of valuable information about you from.

John: For those who aren’t aware of the My Health Record platform, explain to us as if we’ve come from another planet. 

MM: Sure, so look at My Health Record like a secure, online, a little bit like a bank account, if you like, but basically an account for you that has all your key, summary health information flow into it. You can see it on your mobile phone, you log in to it through the myGov system, and you can look at your own My Health Record and you can decide what you want in there and who can see it. So, basically, we set that platform up for all Australians who wanted one and, there’s close to 23 million Australians who have a My Health Record today. And it is there to collect all that information – allergy, discharge summary, pathology, imaging – all that key information into one place for you. And then the people who are trying to provide you with healthcare, the GPs and people in emergency departments, and specialists, and other people, they can all look at that one source of information and all be looking at the same information, so that they’re less likely to make mistakes or miss key things about medicines that you’re on and that’s really, really important.

John: Absolutely, back in the day, well people still do, have those things around their wrist which might indicate that they have blood issues, or it’s got their blood types in it and so many people don’t even know their own blood type. But if I was taken to emergency and I couldn’t tell them that I have a myGov, do they look at my name and then check it out and have access to my information? Or does somebody have to give them authority?

MM: In an emergency situation, doctors and nurses who are working in the emergency department trying to look after someone, if they can’t communicate with you, they can look at the My Health Record through their securely connected hospital system. It is all set up, so that it’s very secure, and they can only look at the patients that they’re looking after and there’s a lot of checks in place and security layers are protecting the information in the way the system operates. So, essentially, you can actually share that information with any clinician you see who you approve to look at the system and to look at My Health Records. You can see it yourself from your mobile phone, and you can also, if you are in an emergency situation – those people in the emergency department can look at My Health Record through their securely connected systems too.

Where it really becomes a very important role to play, is when we have a national crisis. So, for example, when we have the floods in Queensland, when we had the bushfires recently, you know the local pharmacists who I’ve spoken to, they absolutely love the My Health Record system, because people who were cut off from their normal regular home practices and pharmacies, perhaps were there on holidays and cut off in an emergency situation in the bushfires. He was able to look at My Health Records through the securely connected pharmacy system, see what medication people were on and to provide them with that medication. So, it was really, really important to support people during that crisis, and now while we’re all in this situation where we are doing telehealth, and video consultation, and phone consultations and people want to use online information like this My Health Record would also have a role to play in providing important information like your medicines and your allergies and that sort of things. And by the way, you can put information in there yourself, so if you open up your My Health Record through the myGov website, you can enter your own medicine and allergy information in there, and then if a doctor that you haven’t met before potentially has a consultation with you, they’ll be able to open it up and see your medicine and allergy information, as well as all the stuff that flows in from pharmacies, and hospitals, and other connected systems. So, it’s really worth having a look at and it’s very easy to open a record up if you did opt out and you want to have one now; we’re seeing a lot of people opting back into the system.

John: Well, I know that, Meredith, YourLifeChoices members rate their health as their number one priority, of course, as we all should, and as you get older it becomes even more important. How do I know that I have got a My Health Record information already there?

MM: Right, if you didn’t opt out, so if you recall a couple of years ago we went through a period where you could opt out, you could tell the government that you didn’t want a My Health Record and we called that the ‘opt out period’. Then if you didn’t tell the government you didn’t want a record, a record was created for you and that was just little over a year ago now. So, think of it like an empty bank account, if you like, so when we first create these records, they won’t have information in them until you start visiting healthcare providers that are connected and the information is added in.

John: Is my doctor, when he sits in front of the computer, you know a lot, and while he’s talking to me, is that what is happening? Is he looking at My Health Records?

MM: He could be. I must say a lot of people get annoyed about their doctors looking more at their computers than at them, and we try really hard as GPs to make sure that the computer doesn’t get between us and our patients. But we all have, on our general practice computer, a button that we can press that says My Health Record and that opens up your My Health Record, if you have one.

John: So, would that interface with the information that he has in the practice?

MM: Yes, and what we do is, if people would like a summary of their meds, and allergies, and diagnosis, so that’s the key summary document that GPs put up there. So, when I see a patient who might have some chronic conditions or a number of meds and I just want to make sure that they’ve got a record there; it’s very helpful, by the way, for people who are retired and travelling and they might be concerned about having to see a doctor in another state.


Have you had a prescription provided electronically since the crisis broke?

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Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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