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Image Based Prescription Special Arrangement – Extension for hospitals

Page last updated: 29 March 2022

The Department of Health has confirmed that the ‘image-based prescribing’ arrangements implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic will now end on 31 March 2022, except with hospitals. From 1 April 2022, image-based prescribing will only apply to the supply of pharmaceutical benefits for patients treated in public and private hospitals. A prescription written for a hospital patient can be lawfully dispensed by a hospital pharmacy. This arrangement will extend until 31 March 2023.

Electronic prescribing is the preferred electronic option; image-based prescribing should only be used if electronic prescribing is not possible, and after 31 March 2022, it will no longer be legal in community settings.

Image-based prescribing in hospitals

Image-based prescribing will be extended in hospitals until 31 March 2023.

As a prescriber in a hospital, if you choose to use image-based prescribing, you will still create a paper prescription during a telehealth consultation. In these circumstances, prescribers can then create a clear copy of the entire prescription to send to the hospital pharmacy via email, text message or fax. The copy can be a digital image such as a photo or pdf including the barcode where applicable.

The law requires prescribers to retain the paper prescription for a period of 2 years for audit and compliance purposes.

Special Arrangement for residential aged care facilities

Although the Special Arrangement which allows certain supplies to be made based on a digital image or copy of a prescription (provided to an approved supplier by a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescriber) is being limited to approved hospital authorities, 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.

Signing for a prescription

Patients are still not required to sign to acknowledge receipt of supply if it is not practical for them to do so. The pharmacist may sign on behalf of the patient unless it is not practical for them to do so. Signature exemptions for safety net concession cards also continue to apply. This interim arrangement will also continue until 31 March 2023 to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.


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 and again from 31 December to 31 March 2022. Further information for prescribersdispensers is available.

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