At a time when the simple act of handing a piece of paper from one person to another is suddenly a riskier thing to do, the Canterbury Health System has taken urgent steps to remove that risk – and this is just one of a number of ways prescribing has changed in response to the COVID Pandemic.
Clinical Pharmacology, the DHB’s Information Services Group and the Electronic Request Management Service (ERMS) team based at Pegasus Health have worked together to ensure patients needing a prescription take away one less piece of paper.
Now community pharmacies can check their electronic system to match the virtual prescription to the person, a totally paperless process.
As at close of business on 4 May more than 11,000 electronic prescriptions have been issued by Canterbury general practices. Work is underway to extend this functionality to a wider group of clinicians, including those in a hospital or specialist care setting and so far more than 200 prescriptions generated by secondary or tertiary care sources have been completed.
Carolyn Gullery, Executive Director Planning and Funding, and Decision Support for Canterbury DHB says the beauty of this simple solution is that everybody gets to stay safe in their bubble, with no paper changing hands.
“This change in process protects the prescriber, the person receiving the ‘script’, and the pharmacy staff from one avoidable way of potentially passing on germs, but it has other benefits that are less obvious at this time but will last way beyond the current COVID-19 national emergency.
“Often face-to-face consultation is necessary or beneficial. But for other times during the patient journey, enabling parts of that process to be done online is safer - especially if it avoids the potential for passing on an infectious disease. There are other benefits too.”
“You can’t lose an electronic prescription, so prescribed medications can only be picked up the person they are intended for, or by their nominated representative.”
Electronic prescribing uses the Electronic Request Management System that is available to prescribers, principally general practices, throughout the South Island. Using this tried and tested system means prescribers can use a well-established and familiar tool and has the huge potential benefit of ensuring this initiative could easily be rolled out to other DHBs if they wanted to take advantage of it.
There are some changes people receiving a prescription need to be aware of. First and most obvious is that there will be no piece of paper and therefore no tangible reminder that they have to pick their medication up.
“For that reason we recommend that you pick your prescription up straight away if you can, so you don’t forget. The evidence suggests having to pick up straight away makes it more likely the person will collect and use their prescribed medication correctly, whereas later can sometimes mean never. The second change is that the electronic prescription needs to be picked up from a pharmacy you specify.”
“There is an added benefit to specifying your local pharmacy as it helps reinforce and build that relationship with a pharmacy team. The better they get to know you, the more comfortable you will be with asking questions that gives them the opportunity to demonstrate that they are a great source of advice, not just somewhere to pick up your medication.”
“Challenging times are often the extra stimulus we need to try new ways of working. Enabling a General Practice team to refer to a specified pharmacy confirms the importance of consumer choice and strengthens our team approach to health care, a team chosen and trusted by the consumer, working for and with them to help them stay well,” Ms Gullery says.