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Electronic prescribing

Electronic prescribing allows prescribers and their patients to use an electronic prescription for medicines. 

Generally, a patient will receive a token with a QR code by SMS or email. The pharmacy then scans the QR code to download the prescription from the secure server. (Alternatively, patients can access their prescriptions by simply proving their identity to their pharmacist.)

Please note: electronic prescribing should not be confused with ‘image-based prescribing’ – a COVID-19 emergency measure that enabled community pharmacists to dispense medicines when provided with an image of a paper prescription by email, fax or SMS. This measure has ceased. Prescribers are advised not to email, fax or SMS images of paper prescriptions to community pharmacies on the assumption that their patient will be able to receive medicines. Neither Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme funding or Victorian drugs and poisons legislation now allow such an arrangement. More information is available in the department’s letter to prescribers (.pdf).

What are the benefits of electronic prescribing?

Electronic prescribing:

  • improves patient safety by reducing the risk of transcription errors
  • reduces unnecessary paperwork, improving practitioners’ efficiency
  • gives patients choice (electronic formats can suit some patients better)
  • reduces prescription misuse by making more data available for real-time monitoring.

Electronic prescribing has the potential to be incorporated with new or alternative digital health services and initiatives.

How does electronic prescribing work?

There are two models: the ‘token model’ and the ‘active script list’ model.

Token model

In the Token model, a unique token or QR code is sent to the patient via SMS or email. The patient sends or presents this token to the pharmacist to scan, download and fill the prescription. Note that the token is not a legal document, but a key to unlock script details.

For repeat prescriptions, patients are sent a new token when the original prescription is dispensed. As with paper prescriptions, the patient must retain the new token to fill their next prescription.

Active script list model

In this model, patients can access electronic prescriptions by proving their identity to the pharmacist, rather than by presenting a token. This method overcomes the issue of lost tokens and assists medicine management and adherence.

This model will not be available until late 2020 or early 2021. There are currently three foundation communities (Communities of Excellence) testing the model: Emerald, QLD, Hedland, WA and East Arnhem, NT.

Writing electronic prescriptions

There are two ways prescribers can write prescriptions for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines for dispensing by pharmacies:

  1. Use standard (paper) PBS prescription forms.
  2. Write prescriptions electronically. You will need to update your clinical information systems, and check that the pharmacy is ready for electronic prescribing. (Read about setting up electronic prescribing, contact your software provider directly, or visit the Australian Digital Health Agency website for more information and a register of conforming software providers.)

All prescriptions must follow the rules for prescribing PBS medicines. Also see information for pharmacists about PBS prescribing.

Patients do not need a My Health Record to get an electronic prescription. Electronic prescribing is available to anyone with an Individual Healthcare Identifier number – that is, anyone with a Medicare card or DVA card.

How can we help?

Implementing electronic prescribing can be complex. We can help prescribers with the process to find the right software, the right Prescription Delivery Service (PDS), and receiving the right registrations and certifications. This will make it easier and faster for you to start electronic prescribing.

Many software providers are upgrading their clinical information systems to meet the Australian Digital Health Agency’s (ADHA) technical framework for electronic prescribing. Your software provider will work with you to plan and introduce electronic prescribing and minimise any downtime for your business.

Contact us


The ADHA website has detailed information about preparing for electronic prescribing, including registering and supporting patients.

For free, accredited eLearning courses, visit The courses are offered by the Australian Pharmacy Council, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicines, and attract professional development points.