E-Script vs. Paper Prescriptions: What is it & how it works?

Written by Sai Pragna Chagarla, Writer at Hola Health

In Healthcare, prescriptions play a vital role in enabling patient access to necessary medications. In Australia, Electronic prescriptions, commonly known as eScripts are a modern alternative to traditional paper prescriptions and are gradually gaining traction.  

The transition to electronic prescriptions gained momentum in Australia with the advent of Electronic Prescribing. This system, introduced by the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA), serves as the backbone for generating, transmitting, and dispensing electronic prescriptions securely and efficiently. According to the digihealth.gov.au website, over 189 million e-scripts have been issued since May 2020 by over 80,000 prescribers (GP or nurse practitioners). This initiative has been pushed forward from 2021 to 2020 as a part of Australia’s COVID-19 National Health Plan response 

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What is an eScript (electronic prescription)?

An eScript is a digital version of a prescription that is generated electronically and transmitted using digital technology. They are legally recognised electronic documents that are sent from the prescriber to the Prescription Delivery Service (PDS) when they stay until they are given out or expire. The National Digital Health Strategy called out the need for better availability and access to prescriptions for all Australians. eScripts are introduced as a part of this strategy and by the national ePrescribing initiative in Australia which is aimed at modernizing the prescription process and improving access to medications for all patients. 

What is an Active Script List (ASL)

In Australia, ASL is a digital list of all your electronic scripts which is a convenient method especially when managing multiple medications as each medication requires a different token when given online. It works as a token management solution, which the pharmacy can access after getting consent from the concerned person.  

How does an eScript work in Australia?

According to RACGP, eScript can work in the following method in Australia: 

Consultation with a healthcare provider: Speak to a doctor or a nurse practitioner who then upon discussing the health issue creates an electronic prescription using a conformant software platform or provider.  

Issuance of eScript: A script that contains the specifications about the medication, its dosage and other relevant information just like the paper prescription will be issued electronically.  

Transmitting the prescription: This online script will be transferred to the patient using an SMS or to their preferred pharmacy. This prescription will be in the form of a token which is either a barcode or a QR code that can be scanned and accessed securely through the pharmacy dispensing system.  

Collection of the medication: Once at the pharmacy, the script should be validated, and the prescription will be filled for the pharmacist to get the medication ready. It can be collected from the pharmacy or delivered home via online pharmacy delivery. 

How Do You Use Electronic Prescriptions?

Electronic prescriptions offer a convenient way and efficient way for patients to obtain their prescribed medications while reducing the need for paper-based prescriptions. One can get an eScript from their comfort of their home and from anywhere in Australia. These online scripts can then be used for getting the medication from the pharmacies. 

How Do You Validate Electronic Prescriptions Are Legitimate?

The validation of Electronic Prescriptions ensures that it is legitimate and active. This is to ensure the prescriptions are not expired and are issued by a software provider who is registered with the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) and is conformant according to the government legislation. This ensures the that the script came from a GP, using a conformant software provider and the pharmacy can confidently dispense it. It will also ensure the trust is retained in this online prescription service.  

Are eScripts safe?

In Australia, measures are taken on each level to ensure the online prescriptions are delivered in a safe manner, such as: 

  • Healthcare providers can only use conformant apps that are registered with the Australian Government to ensure the prescription is legitimate and valid. This will also be digitally signed by the prescriber to ensure it is not forged. 
  • eScripts are dispensed through a secure network called the Prescription Exchange Service which ensures secure exchange between the online doctors and the pharmacies.  
  • Each online script is assigned to a unique identifier such as a barcode, QR code or alphanumeric code which the pharmacy can use to verify the authenticity of the script. 
  • Pharmacies will verify the identity of the patient, the legitimacy of the eScript before dispensing the medicine. 

What are the benefits? 

Electronic Scripts are implemented to enhance the efficiency of the medicine dispensing system, to improve the accessibility to medication and to ensure the medication is delivered safely. As per research conducted on the extent of medication-related hospital admissions in Australia, around 250,000 hospital admissions yearly are medicine-related. Two-thirds of medication-related hospital admissions are potentially preventable. E-scripts especially improve this situation along with other benefits such as: 

Easier for patients

eScripts eliminates the need for carrying or losing physical documents, putting the patients at ease. Patients can also choose their preferred pharmacy, and mode of medication delivery enhancing flexibility and convenience. This particularly helps patients with mobility issues, rural and remote areas in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and more across Australia, or those who are unable to visit the hospital in person.  

Easy pharmacy delivery

These enable seamless communication between healthcare providers and pharmacies. It also reduces the risk of errors associated with handwritten prescriptions, illegible handwriting, or transcription mistakes. This will help the pharmacy easily dispense the right medication in the right quantity and reduce room for error.  

Cost and Time Savings

The streamlined prescribing and dispensing process saves both time and cost for the prescribers, patients, and pharmacies. eScripts can be generated quickly, reducing the waiting times and patients can collect the medication from any pharmacy regardless of their location. 

Enhanced Security and Traceability

Each electronic prescription is digitally signed by the prescribing healthcare professional, providing a secure and tamper-evident record of the prescription. The online system maintains a comprehensive audit trail, documenting each step of the prescription process, which enhances accountability and reduces the risk of errors or fraud.

Improved Medication Management

Electronic prescriptions enhance medication management by providing a centralized and accessible record of prescribed medications. Healthcare professionals can review patients’ medication histories, identify potential drug interactions, and make informed decisions about treatment options. 

Environmentally Friendly

 eScripts contributes to environmental sustainability by reducing paper usage and waste.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can all medicines be prescribed using an eScript?

Most medicines can be prescribed using an electronic prescription. Some healthcare providers can have a restriction in providing an eScript for certain medications which should be checked with the conformant application or a GP.  

Can I use an eScript at any pharmacy?

Yes, an eScript can be used at any pharmacy as most pharmacies in Australia are set up to give out medicines using an electronic prescription. 

Can I get repeats on my electronic prescriptions?

Yes, you can get repeats on your electronic prescription. Your pharmacy will send you a new token by SMS or email to use when you require more medicine in case you have repeated the online prescription. 

How much does an eScript cost?

The cost of the online script depends on the software provider and the healthcare provider involved in the process. One must check the conformant apps (Hola Health app) to understand the cost of the eScript given out by them.

How do I get an eScript?

An eScript can be attained by consulting a general practitioner. Telehealth is bridging the gap by ensuring that a GP can be consulted online, and a script can be sent to your mobile phone by the healthcare provider once approved. You can now request an online script from Australian government-registered conformant applications. eScripts can be obtained 24 hours a day and 7 days a week by having a short conversation with a registered doctor from anywhere in Australia with Hola Health.  

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  1. Electronic-Prescriptions: Digital Health Australia: Reference Link 
  2. About Prescriptions – Australian Government Department of Health and aged care: Reference Link 
  3. Health Direct – Escript: Reference Link 
  4. Electronic prescribing – Supporting Australians: Australian Digital Agency Article in Ruralhealth.org.au: Reference Link  
  5. PHN – Australian Government Initiative: Reference Link 
  6. National Digital Health Strategy: Reference Link  
  7. Australian College of Nursing: Reference Link  
  8. RACGP – Electronic Prescriptions: Reference Link  
  9. Pharmaceutical society of Australia: Reference Link
  10. Australian Journal of Rural Health –: Benefits and challenges of electronic prescribing for general practitioners and pharmacists in regional Australia: Reference Link
  11. Australian Government Electronic Prescribing Register of Conformance: Reference Link  
  12. Lim R, Ellett LMK, Semple S, Roughead EE. The Extent of Medication-Related Hospital Admissions in Australia: A Review from 1988 to 2021. Drug Saf. 2022 Mar;45(3):249-257. doi: 10.1007/s40264-021-01144-1. Epub 2022 Jan 28. PMID: 35089582; PMCID: PMC8933367. 

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This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.