Electronic Prescribing Systems

Electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) refers to a process by which prescription information is created electronically, transferred via electronic means, and dispensed electronically. This process replaces entirely the use of a paper prescription.

In addition to e-prescriptions, both handwritten and computer generated paper prescriptions continue to be legally acceptable ways to prescribe a medicine. 

Some benefits of e-prescriptions for health practitioners are that they:

  • are instantaneously transmitted;
  • are more efficient;
  • are less susceptible to being altered or falsified; 
  • may reduce transcription and other types of errors; and
  • remove the need to handle or store a paper document.

For patients, e-prescriptions:

  • remove the need to handle or store paper documents;
  • cannot be lost or misplaced; and
  • are safe and secure.

The national model for e-prescriptions in Australia is comprised of three software components:

  • practice software used to generate the prescription;
  • prescription delivery service (PDS), which incorporates a prescription exchange (PE) and holds the prescription; and
  • pharmacy software that retrieves the e-prescription and is used to dispense the prescription.

A legal electronic prescription (e-prescription) can only be created and dispensed by health practitioners, through the use of approved software that complies with national standards.

To offer e-prescriptions, commercial software providers must obtain the necessary Commonwealth and State approvals specific to their system.

Any authorised prescriber may issue an e-prescription using approved software and, at a pharmacy, any registered pharmacist may dispense an e-prescription using approved dispensing software. There are no additional authorisations required of health practitioners to use e-prescription systems.

All prescribing and dispensing software products will require prescribers and pharmacists to have an individual secure login. It is an offence for a prescriber or pharmacist to share their system password with other persons.

There are two components of the e- prescribing system that are most relevant to prescribers and pharmacists; an e- prescribing component and an e- dispensing system. In the initial stages of implementation, it is important to note that not all e- prescribing and e-dispensing software products will be approved at the same time.

Therefore while some medical practices are able to generate an e-prescription, not all pharmacies may be able to dispense them until the software product, used by the pharmacy, has both Commonwealth and State

In e-prescribing, the legal prescription is held in electronic form only. There is no paper prescription. Any paper associated with an e-prescription is only intended for use by the patient as an access token.

E-prescriptions are distinct from the creation and transmission of a digital image of paper prescriptions. Digital images are only allowed in emergency circumstances, including under emergency provisions during COVID-19, and are therefore subject to restrictions.  As e-prescriptions are safer and more secure than digital images of paper-based prescriptions.

Where e-prescribing is enabled, patients will have the choice of requesting an e-prescription, or a paper prescription, from their prescriber. If an e-prescription is issued by the prescriber, this can only dispensed as an e-prescription, through use of approved software. An e-prescription cannot be converted to a paper based prescription, and vice-versa.

E-prescriptions will be valid for all types of medicines, including Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 (controlled drugs) medicines. E-prescriptions issued and dispensed on approved software will be eligible as Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines supplies. E-prescribing may also be used for non-PBS medicines.

The overview of the process of issuing and supplying an e-prescription is: 

  1. the e-prescription is generated by the prescriber via approved prescribing software;
  2. the prescription information is securely transmitted to an approved PDS and the e-prescription is held in the service to await dispensing;
  3. the prescribing software generates a token (QR code or barcode), specific to that e–prescription, which is provided to the patient;
  4. the patient presents the token to a pharmacy, when they require supply of the medicine;
  5. the token is used by the pharmacy to access the prescription information within the PDS and the medicine is dispensed using approved dispensing software;
  6. the dispensing software updates the prescription information in the PDS, to indicate supply has occurred; and
  7. if repeat supplies are authorised, the dispensing software will issue the patient a new token to obtain repeats.

The token for patients to access e-prescriptions may be either a:

  • paper token containing a QR code or barcode; or
  • QR code or barcode sent via text or email.

Tokens will contain a QR code or a barcode along with the patient’s name or initials and basic information about the medicine prescribed. Token QR codes or barcodes will need to be presented to the dispensing pharmacy for scanning.

Paper tokens will be clearly marked to indicate that they are for an e-prescription. Paper tokens will also have a different appearance to a traditional paper prescription.

In the future, patients may be able to access e-prescriptions without a token. This will be achieved with an active script list (ASL), used to verify the patient’s identity and access all pending prescriptions at the pharmacy.

Approved systems must:

A list of electronic prescribing and dispensing systems approved for use in Western Australia can be found at:

Health practitioners should contact their practice or dispensing software provider for more information on whether their system is approved and for training on how to use e-prescribing functions.

Software vendors seeking approval for an e-prescribing system should review:

Electronic prescribing for consumers (Healthy WA)

More information

Medicines and Poisons Regulation Branch
Mailing address: PO Box 8172, Perth Business Centre, WA 6849
Phone: 9222 6883
Email: mprb@health.wa.gov.au

Last reviewed: 03-06-2020
Produced by

Medicines and Poisons Regulation Branch