PBS News

Extension to Image Based Prescription Special Arrangement

Page last updated: 1 October 2020

The Department of Health has extended the ‘image based prescription’ interim measure which allows the supply of PBS medicines from a digital image of a prescription.  Under this Special Arrangement, following a Medicare-subsidised telehealth consultation a prescriber is able to create a digital image of a legal paper prescription. With the patient’s permission, the prescriber may forward the copy of the prescription to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice by email, text message or fax.

The Special Arrangement commenced 26 March 2020. It has helped prescribers and dispensers to provide healthcare remotely, and patients to access their prescription medicines without leaving their home. Given the extension of telehealth arrangements, the Special Arrangement will also be extended from the current cease date of 30 September 2020 to 31 March 2021. All other rules regarding this interim arrangement such as keeping a copy of the prescription for two years will continue. Further information for prescribers, dispensers is available.

State and Territory legislation will continue to apply. Further information can be found on the Health website. Medicines in Schedule 8 and Schedule 4 Appendix D in the Poisons Standard will continue to be excluded from this interim arrangement, unless specifically permitted by relevant state or territory rules.

The extension to the Special Arrangement continues to temporarily allow the supply of a pharmaceutical benefit without acknowledgement from the patient wherever it is impractical for them to sign the prescription (e.g. where the patient is concerned about transmission of COVID-19 by using the pharmacy pen). Pharmacists are still expected to require patients, or their agents, to acknowledge receipt of the pharmaceutical benefit where it is practical to do so; however, pharmacists are not required to sign on the patient’s behalf where it is not practical for the patient or the patient’s agent to sign (e.g. the pharmacist suppling medicine from an image based prescription).

An additional provision has also been included to waive the requirement for a signature for a pharmaceutical benefits prescription record where an approved supplier’s signature is normally required, but the record is not handwritten and it is not practicable for the patient to obtain the approved supplier’s signature.  Records of supplies of pharmaceutical benefits are necessary to substantiate patients’ eligibility to be issued a PBS safety net concession card or a pharmaceutical benefits entitlement card when their, or their family’s, total eligible out of pocket expenses for PBS prescriptions in the calendar year has equalled or exceeded the relevant statutory threshold amount.

This interim measure will provide healthcare providers the ability to continue to provide their essential services to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic while also keeping themselves and patients safe.  Electronic prescribing is currently operating in communities of interest and areas of activation are expanding. If you are in a community of interest or other area of activation, you should commence using electronic prescribing as a safer and more convenient alternative to the Special Arrangement. If you are not in a community of interest, or other area of activation, you should prepare for rollout over the coming months by following these instructions.

For further information please visit the Department’s website or email eprescribing@health.gov.au