COVID-19 has undoubtedly seen a change in workflow for many sectors, and general practice is no different. The height of the pandemic and the alert level 4 lockdown saw GPs moving to virtual consultations, and an increase in ePrescribing.
At this time of economic and public health uncertainty, it is more important than ever that our health sector is fully digitally enabled. Secure, consistent, and simple sharing of patient health information is how we achieve this.
The New Zealand ePrescription Service (NZePS) provides a secure messaging channel for prescribing and dispensing systems to exchange prescription information electronically. A prescriber generates a prescription, which is then transmitted to the NZePS health information exchange broker, and downloaded electronically at a local community pharmacy.
Over time, patients will benefit from improvements in patient safety and quality of care that NZePS brings, including:
- reduced risk of transcribing errors during dispensing
- communication efficiencies between the prescriber and pharmacist, which will help to decrease the number of phone calls
- ability to evaluate and address patient medicines adherence issues
- improvements in the quality of patient medication history information, as the patient’s clinical record can be updated when medicines are dispensed.
The prescriber can note the reason for prescribing and make other comments which will be sent as part of the prescription passed electronically to the pharmacy. Prescribers can request a notification when the medicine has not been dispensed, and pharmacists can send dispensing comments back to the prescriber.
Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand (the Guild) staff pharmacists have been heavily involved in helping local pharmacies with their NZePS queries. Guild pharmacist Linda Joe has fielded numerous queries on the NZePS system.
“It’s important that practices and pharmacies work together to optimise the use of this system so that our patients benefit,” Linda says.
“What we’re hearing from our members is that there are several things that can be done at the prescriber end to streamline the process and ensure a successful experience for the patient.”
The Guild recommends you set the printer resolution at high so the pharmacy can scan the barcode. Remember that hand-written amendments are not allowed on any barcoded ePrescription.
“You should also check recommendations made by other specialists, special authorities and expiry dates for those medicines which require these criteria for funding – just to make sure they’re all current,” Linda says.
It is also important to note that there are legal requirements for you to meet. If a signed barcoded prescription for controlled drugs Class A, B and C is faxed, or scanned and emailed to the pharmacy, you need to send the signed original to the pharmacy within two working days. This excludes Class C exempt or partially exempt controlled drugs.
“It’s essential for the people at the dispensing end of the equation that all these requirements are met,” Linda says. “Ultimately, it results in a smoother experience for the patient.”
COVID-19 has highlighted the need for enhanced collaboration and integration across the health sector to ensure that health professionals can respond to patient needs in a timely, safe manner that reflects best practice public health guidelines.
Remember that at the heart of the prescribing and dispensing process is a person, a patient who needs and deserves the highest standard of care.