Electronic prescribing

What is electronic prescribing?

Electronic prescribing allows for the prescribing and dispensing of medicines without the need for a paper prescription, which can improve efficiency and medicines safety.

Electronic prescribing is an initiative as part of the National Health Plan. It was originally due to be rolled in later 2021, but its delivery was progressed in 2020 to support telehealth consultations and help protect healthcare providers and patients from infectious disease, in this case COVID-19, by removing the need to present to your GP in person to get a prescription.

As of December 2022, over 100 million original and repeat electronic prescriptions have been issued in Australia (since May 2020) by more than 50,000 prescribers (Source: Australian Digital Health Agency).

How does it work?

Tokens - Available now

Instead of a paper prescription, the patient can choose to receive their prescription via an app, SMS or email in the form of a link to a unique QR code or ‘token’.

The token is scanned by the pharmacy to unlock the electronic form of the prescription from an encrypted and secure electronic prescription delivery service. If the patient has a repeat for a prescription, they will receive a new token from the pharmacy that replaces the original token.

Active Script List (ASL) - Rolling out now

The Active Script List (ASL) is currently rolling out to pharmacies with compatible software across Australia and will become available more broadly throughout 2022. The ASL is a list of all active prescriptions and repeats available to be dispensed. When a prescription is generated, it appears in the patient’s ASL (unless they request the prescription is not uploaded). ASL is an opt-in feature and patients can register for the ASL with their preferred pharmacy and then provide viewing access to their healthcare providers (if they wish to).

Some pharmacies have developed mobile apps to help patients manage their tokens and ASL (once available). These apps allow patients to send tokens directly to their pharmacy and means the patient does not have to keep track of SMSs and emails. They will also be able to view and manage their ASL (when available). 

How do I get started?

Electronic prescribing is now available in most parts of Australia and you are encouraged to commence electronic prescribing, taking into consideration your patients preferred prescription choice.

Before commencing:
  • ensure your local pharmacies are ready to dispense electronic prescriptions
  • ensure your practice has a Healthcare Provider Identifier-Organisation (HPI-O) and is connected to the Health Identifiers Service
  • ensure your practice is connected to an open prescription delivery service via a prescription exchange service 
  • ensure patient phone and email addresses are current so they can receive tokens
  • ensure your clinical information system is current which will ensure it is conformant
  • ensure your practice team are up-to-date with electronic prescribing
  • discuss the option of receiving a prescription electronically with your patients.

SMS subsidy funding extended

Following strong advocacy from the RACGP, an SMS subsidy for sending electronic prescription tokens has been further extended until at least 30 June 2023. This means there is no cost to a practice for sending a prescription token (or repeat token) via SMS.  

The RACGP will continue to work with the Federal Department of Health and the Australian Digital health Agency, advocating for an ongoing funding model that supports uptake and provision of electronic prescriptions.


How does this differ to 'image-based prescribing'?

'Image-based prescribing' is an interim arrangement implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to support patients to receive their prescribed medicines (typically following a telehealth consult) without a paper prescription, where electronic prescriptions are unavailable. The arrangement allows prescribers to take a digital image of a paper prescription to send to the patient's pharmacy of choice via email, SMS or fax for dispensing. 

With electronic prescribing now widely available and used across Australia, image-based prescribing capabilities has ceased in community healthcare settings as of 31 March 2022, and in hospital settings as of 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. 

You can find out more by visiting the Department of Health’s Prescriptions via telehealth – a guide for prescribers and Prescriptions via telehealth – state and territory rules fact sheets.

Resources for GPs


Australian Digital Health Agency 


Resources for patients


Australian Digital Health Agency


Webinar recording – Electronic prescribing update 2021

Originally recorded: 25 May 2021

To access the webinar resource pack, and Quick log 2 CPD points for watching the webinar, visit the webinar landing page.