COVID arrangements for image-based prescriptions extended

25 Mar 2021

The Special Arrangement allowing doctors to email, text or fax a digital image of a paper-based prescription to their patient’s pharmacy has been extended until the end of September. 

The National Health (COVID-19 Supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits) Special Arrangement 2020 was developed as part of the COVID-19 National Health Plan to allow patients confined to their home access to necessary medicines through ‘Image Based Prescription for Medicine Supply’. 

This measure supports telehealth by enabling the supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines from a digital image of a prescription, and without acknowledgement of receipt of supply if it is impractical for the patient to sign. 

Following a Medicare-subsidised telehealth consultation, a prescriber is able to create a digital image of a legal paper prescription and forward it to the patient’s pharmacy by email, text message or fax. 

State and Territory legislation will also continue to apply to this interim arrangement. Schedule 8 and Schedule 4 Appendix D in the Poisons Standard medicines will continue to be excluded from the Special Arrangement, unless specifically permitted by relevant State or Territory rules. Further information can be found here

All other rules regarding this interim arrangement, such as keeping a copy of the prescription for two years, will also continue. 

The Special Arrangement was implemented only as an interim measure while electronic prescribing capability was being implemented. 

The Department of Health advises that if electronic prescribing is available in your area, you should opt for an electronic prescription instead of the Image Based Prescription for Medicine Supply. 

The Department will continue to work with the sector to enable electronic prescribing capability to ensure further extensions to the Special Arrangement are not required. More information on electronic prescribing can be found on the Department of Health’s website here

The Department’s website and factsheets are in the process of being updated. If you have further questions, please contact