PBS News

Update to the Image-based prescribing Special Arrangement

Page last updated: 3 April 2024

Please note: The information on this page is no longer current and is only included here for historical reference.

Current information on patient acknowledge of receipt of a pharmaceutical benefit is provided on the Supplying Medicines — What Pharmacists Need to Know page.

The Department of Health and Aged Care has confirmed that arrangements for image-based prescribing in hospitals outlined in the National Health (COVID-19 Supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits) Special Arrangement 2020 (the Special Arrangement) ends on 31 March 2023. However, the requirement for a patient to provide written acknowledgment (e.g. a signature) for prescriptions will continue to not be enforced under the Special Arrangement until 31 March 2024.

Electronic prescribing is now widely available in Australia and provides an option for supporting telehealth consultations and enabling supply of medicines. Other prescribing options, such as urgent supply arrangements which existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue.

Image-based prescribing in hospitals

Limited image-based prescribing activities for prescriptions written for hospital patients will end on 31 March 2023.

The image-based prescribing for hospital arrangements limited the supply of pharmaceutical benefits to hospital settings, as defined by section 94 of the National Health Act 1953, which is an approved hospital authority who is approved to supply pharmaceutical benefits. This included both public and private hospitals. However, this arrangement ends 31 March 2023.

Prescriptions written before 31 March 2023 with existing repeats that were dispensed under image-based prescribing hospital arrangements will continue to be honoured after 31 March 2023. These must continue to be retained by the pharmacist for subsequent supply of the medicine, until the prescription runs out or expires.

Special Arrangement for residential aged care facilities

Although image-based prescribing ends 31 March 2023, residential care services can continue using copies of medication charts for PBS prescribing. This is allowed by section 45(2) of the National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Regulations 2017 which specifies that an approved supplier may supply a pharmaceutical benefit on the basis of a medication chart prescription only if the supplier has seen a medication chart or a copy of the medication chart that includes all prescribing information requirements.

Signature requirements for receipt of a prescription and Prescription Record Forms

A person does not need to provide a written acknowledgement that they have received a benefit (by signature) on the prescription (including a repeat authorisation or deferred supply) if it is not practical to do so, and the supplier is not required to certify the date of supply and the reason it was not practical to do so.

Signature requirements outlined within the Special Arrangement will continue until 31 March 2024.

From 1 April 2023, Safety Net Prescription Record Forms (PRFs), whether handwritten or not, must be signed by pharmacists. PRFs not signed by the pharmacist after this date will not be accepted and there will be no transition period after this provision ceases in the Special Arrangement 31 March 2023. The signature requirements for PRFs will revert to the previous requirements set out within the National Health Act 1953.


Under the ‘image-based prescribing’ Special Arrangement, following a Medicare-subsidised telehealth consultation a prescriber was allowed to create a digital image of a legal paper prescription. With the patient’s permission, the prescriber could forward the copy of the prescription to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice by email, text message or fax.

The ‘image-based prescribing’ Special Arrangement commenced 26 March 2020. The cease date was extended from 31 March 2021 to 30 September 2021, from 30 September 2021 to 31 December 2021, from 31 December to 31 March 2022, from 31 March 2022 to 31 March 2023, and again from 31 March 2023 to 31 March 2024 to extend the signature exemptions for prescriptions. Further information for prescribersdispensers is available. A summary of State and Territory arrangements, including links to relevant legislation, is also available here.

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