About electronic prescribing

Electronic prescribing allows prescribers and their patients to use an electronic Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) prescription. It forms part of an Australian Government budget measure to make the PBS more efficient.

Electronic prescriptions are part of the broader digital health and medicines safety framework. They enable the prescribing, dispensing and claiming of medicines, without the need for a paper prescription.

Electronic prescribing will not fundamentally change existing prescribing and dispensing processes. Patients can still choose which pharmacy they attend to fill their prescription.

Prescribers and patients can choose an electronic prescription instead of a paper prescription. Paper prescriptions will still exist.

Why it is important

Electronic prescribing is important because it:

  • provides greater choice for patients
  • makes prescribing and dispensing medicines more efficient
  • may reduce prescribing and dispensing errors
  • supports electronic medication charts in hospitals and residential aged care facilities
  • removes the need for handling and storing a physical paper prescription
  • supports digital health services such as telehealth services to ensure continuity of patient care
  • provides an opportunity to protect community members and health care providers from exposure to infectious diseases (for example, COVID-19)
  • maintains patient privacy and integrity of personal information.

Goals of the initiative

Electronic prescribing aims to provide convenience and choice to patients while improving PBS efficiency, compliance and drug safety.

Meeting our goals

We are implementing electronic prescribing. The Australian Government has changed legislation to make electronic prescribing of PBS medicines legal. States and territories have made changes to their legal frameworks to allow for electronic prescriptions in their jurisdiction.

We are working with the Australian Digital Health Agency to deliver the technical framework to help clinical software systems create, collect and store electronic prescriptions. This technical framework details the requirements for clinical software to:

  • maintain patient choice of prescriber and pharmacy for supply of their medicines
  • adhere to privacy and security principles
  • ensure alignment with legislation.

Services Australia has also changed the PBS claim-for-payment system to support the new arrangements.

Timelines

We have now implemented electronic prescribing, and clinical software that can create, collect and store an electronic prescription is increasingly available across Australia.

The Australian Government encourages community pharmacies and general practitioners to learn about using electronic prescriptions. This includes getting software ready and participating in training opportunities the Australian Digital Health Agency, peak bodies and software providers provide.

PBS regulatory framework

The regulatory framework to allow for electronic prescribing under the PBS has several components.

Changes to the National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Regulations 2017 allow the use of an electronic prescription under the PBS.

Four instruments under these regulations support the use of electronic prescriptions, including electronic prescriptions that are medication charts.

  • The Form of the Electronic Prescription 2019 defines the information fields required when a PBS prescriber writes an electronic prescription.
  • The Electronic Prescriptions Information Technology Requirements 2019 details system requirements for participating in electronic prescribing. 
  • The Form of the PBS Hospital Medication Chart details requirements for paper and electronic forms of medication charts for use in hospitals.
  • The Form of the National Residential Medication Chart details requirements for paper and electronic forms of medication charts for use in residential care facilities.

The following policies guide electronic prescribing:

For further information regarding the Commonwealth Privacy requirements, see the Electronic Prescribing Privacy Impact Assessment Public Summary

For more information about the Department of Health’s privacy policy or to make an enquiry or complaint requiring privacy, can be found online.

Changes to the National Health (Claims and under co-payment data) Rules 2012 allow PBS claims from electronic prescriptions. The rules state what information approved suppliers must provide about supplying PBS medicines from electronic prescriptions.

Information for prescribers and dispensers

Writing a prescription

A prescriber can write prescriptions for PBS medicines for dispensing by pharmacies in the following 3 ways:

  1. Use standard PBS prescription paper forms.  
  2. Write prescriptions electronically – you will need to update your clinical information system to do this and check that the patient’s pharmacy is ready. Read about setting up electronic prescribing, or you can contact your software provider directly.  
  3. Send an image (photo or scan) of a paper prescription (until 31 March 2021). This does not apply to medicines in Schedule 8 and Schedule 4 Appendix D in the Poisons Standard. These are to be supplied under normal prescribing and dispensing rules, unless specifically permitted under state or territory arrangements. 

All prescriptions must follow certain rules. Read more on rules for prescribing PBS medicines and information for pharmacists.

You must continue to adhere to the National Health Act 1953 and relevant state or territory regulations when prescribing and supplying medicines.

State and territory requirements

Australian Capital Territory

In the Australian Capital Territory, the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2008 enables electronic prescribing.

New South Wales

In New South Wales, an exemption from the New South Wales Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation enables electronic prescribing. See more information for:

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory the Electronic Transactions (Northern Territory) Act 2000 enables electronic prescribing. Read about medicines and poisons control in the Northern Territory.

Queensland

In Queensland, the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996 enables electronic prescribing where the approved requirements for electronic prescriptions are met.

South Australia

In South Australia, the Controlled Substances (Poisons) Regulations 2011 enable electronic prescriptions. Read information for consumers, health professionals and software vendors.

Tasmania

In Tasmania, Regulations 21 and 46 of the Poisons Regulations 2018 enable electronic prescriptions, where approved by the Tasmanian Secretary for Health. The Secretary for Health must approve any software system used in Tasmania to prescribe, transmit, or dispense electronic prescriptions. Read about electronic prescribing in Tasmania.

Victoria

Read about electronic prescribing in Victoria.

Western Australia

In Western Australia, the Medicines and Poisons Regulations 2016 enable electronic prescribing. The Western Australian Department of Health must approve each product that is part of an electronic prescribing system. Read about electronic prescribing in Western Australia.

Learn more

See Claiming online for PBS medicines for more information on the changes made to the PBS claim-for-payment system.

See Electronic prescriptions at the Australian Digital Health Agency site.

Contacts

Contact the Department of Health with questions about the legislative framework for electronic prescribing.

Contact the Australian Digital Health Agency with questions about the electronic prescribing technical framework. 

Contact Services Australia with questions about the:

  • PBS or Repatriation Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits (RPBS) claim systems
  • Healthcare identifiers service.

Electronic prescribing contacts

Use these contacts for more information on aspects of electronic prescribing.

Department of Health
ePrescribing [at] health.gov.au
Australian Digital Health Agency
help [at] digitalhealth.gov.au
Services Australia
DEVSUPPORT [at] servicesaustralia.gov.au

View contact

Last updated: 
5 March 2021