80% Of Australian Prescriptions Are Dispensed Electronically

80% Of Australian Prescriptions Are Dispensed Electronically

So I had only one reaction when I learned that 80 per cent of prescriptions in Australia are dispensed electronically: why on earth are the other 20 per cent not?

Doctors picture from Shutterstock

Data from eRx Script Exchange suggests that 87 per cent of pharmacies and 72 per cent of doctors now use electronic exchanges. Presumably, the other 28 per cent of doctors are happy to perpetuate the stereotype of doctors having terrible handwriting.

The clear benefit of electronic prescriptions, efficiency aside, is that there’s no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation. Getting those hold-outs to change over might require legislation, however — there will always be people who say “this works, why should I change it?”

In some areas, connectivity might also be an issue — a problem Australia Post is facing as it tries to upgrade regional post offices.



  • What do you mean by ‘dispensed electronically’? That they type up the prescription and print the paper out or is there a system where you just show up at the chemist and they look up your file and then give you your drugs?

  • The doctor’s prescribing software connects to an online service called a script exchange and uploads the script details. Currently, the patient still gets a paper version of the script, with a barcode on it. At the pharmacy, the pharmacist scans the barcode (or types in the number below the barcode), and the dispensing software connects to the script exchange and downloads the script details (things like: the patient’s name; the drug and dosage; the number of repeats).

    It reduces dispensing errors, and saves the pharmacist having to re-type everything.

  • Doctors like myself at Queensland Health hospitals have to hand write prescriptions. There is no electronic software for us (though perhaps some such thing is rumoured to exist at the Prince Charles Hospital). Handwriting must be the cheaper option. No idea what other states hospitals do though.

  • Pharmacist here.

    1. Angus, I think you’ve confused electronic/computer prescribing software and script exchange. @PharmacyTechWriter described a script exchange well. @flubby explained a few reasons why there might be some holdouts but they apply simply to prescribing software and by extension script exchange.

    2. @darylcheshire: I think your problem might simply be waiting your turn. A simple script exchange script for say antibiotic capsules for an adult might only take a minute or two. But that’s assuming that the pharmacist gets hold of it and starts on it straight away. See all the other people in the pharmacy? They were there first. Some of them also might have more complex scripts (say mixtures that need reconstituting, confusing directions from the doctors, controlled drugs that need contacting the doctor and recording into or out of a safe…) 10 minutes, I’d say you’ve done well. You probably waited at least that long after your appointment time in the doctor’s waiting room.

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