ePrescribing: a key priority

Following the identification of ePrescribing as a key priority for Ireland within the 2013 National eHealth Strategy, eolas looks at a number of significant developments.

ePrescribing is an integral part of the wider ePharmacy programme using digital solutions for enhanced efficiency and pharmacy safety across care settings. The operations of ePrescribing will make up a significant element of the ePharmacy Strategy for Ireland currently being developed.

While some elements of the new strategy will be forward-looking, ePrescription roll out is at an advanced stage, with many of the initiatives in Ireland and other EU countries well-documented.

Significant benefits of the digital transformation of prescription have been recognised in primary care with the benefits of six year programme of Investment (epSOS) totalling €36.5 million which aimed to “design, build and evaluate a service infrastructure that demonstrates cross-border interoperability between electronic health record systems in Europe”.

In Ireland the ePharmacy programme engaged a variety of stakeholders about finding the best method of advancing ePrescribing.

To date the major initiatives, include:

• HIQA standards: In 2015 the HIQA published two important standards ‘Data model for an electronic medicinal product reference catalogue – a National Standard’ and ‘ePrescription dataset and clinical document architecture standard’, which outline a data model for a medicinal product reference catalogue, and a data set and technical specification for electronic prescriptions.

• Active pilots: Ireland currently has two software vendor pilots underway. Clanwilliam Group are piloting their e-script initiative in regional pilots nationwide, a new prescription notification service allowing a GP to forward prescription details to a pharmacy of choice instantly to ensure prompt accessibility.

The second pilot taking place is the ePrescribing initiative in Mallow, Co Cork by the collaboration of Cork Health Innovation Hub. The system codes each individual item on a prescription and encrypts them while transferring to a central server and then to the cloud. Once the script is presented to the pharmacy, the information is retrieved from the cloud and is automatically populated into the McLernons dispensing system.

Building and testing national ePrescribing is being done on a phased approach. The two pilots, HIQA standards and Healthlink, the national messaging broker, allowing secure transmission of clinical patient information between hospitals, health care agencies and general practitioners, were viewed as the initial building blocks.

Last year approval was granted for an initial phase that will facilitate the electronic transfer of prescriptions, utilising the recent HIQA standards and Healthlink.

Looking forward, work is underway to develop a standardised transportation mechanism and supporting infrastructure for the safe electronic transportation of prescription from system to dispensation. The overall aim is to see a dramatic increase in efficiency in dispensation speed and errors by removing potential for human error at key points. The development of Healthlink will open up further possibilities for greater interaction between local, regional and national service providers.

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