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SafeScript is coming soon: how doctors can prepare

17 August 2018 | Anna MacLeod, LLB (Hons), BSc (Hons), MAppSc (Toxicology), DipAppSc (Nursing), Head of Medical Defence and Service, Avant, VIC and ACT

Doctors in Victoria will need to ensure their AHPRA details are up-to-date and they are aware of regulatory requirements now in effect for the introduction of SafeScript, Victoria’s real-time prescription monitoring system, later this year.

In 2017, there were 414 Victorian drug overdose deaths involving pharmaceutical medicines. This was higher than both the number of overdose deaths involving illicit drugs (271), and the road toll (258) for the same period. Whilst the implementation of real-time monitoring systems by other state governments has been slow, the Victoria government is moving ahead and will be the first mainland state to introduce a system. It is something Avant has been advocating on behalf of our members, calling for reforms to improve the way drugs of dependence are prescribed, monitored and regulated.

In late 2018, SafeScript will be introduced initially into the Western Victoria Primary Health Network catchment area. This encompasses the regional centres Geelong, Horsham, Ballarat and Warrnambool. The clinical support tool will then be rolled out to the rest of Victoria early next year.

There will be an 18-month introductory period to allow doctors to familiarise themselves with the system. From April 2020 onwards, it will be mandatory to check patients’ prescription history in SafeScript prior to prescribing high-risk medicines.

How can you register for SafeScript?

Prescribers and pharmacists practicing in the Western Victoria Primary Health Network catchment area will receive an email with the link to register for SafeScript from mid-August 2018. Prescribers should ensure their registration details with AHPRA are up-to-date, specifically:

  • Your principal place of practice.
  • Your email address recorded with AHPRA as this will be used for the initial SafeScript link to registration.

If you opted out of receiving the registration email, you can register through the SafeScript portal, available at health.vic.gov.au/safescript. A quick reference guide is available on the portal to assist you through registration, as well as a dedicated technical support phone line.

What do the regulations mean?

Data collection for SafeScript commenced from 2 July 2018 to ensure that sufficient patient information is available in the system for doctors to make safer clinical decisions from the first day they start to use SafeScript.

Doctors now need to include the patient's date of birth on all prescriptions monitored through SafeScript. Prescribing software should prompt doctors to include this information for computer generated scripts.

How does SafeScript work?

SafeScript will provide doctors with access to comprehensive prescription information to identify circumstances where a patient may be at risk of harm from a monitored medicine. It will not prevent clinicians from prescribing or dispensing a medicine they consider to be clinically necessary.

Based on local and international research and recommendations from key health organisations, prescription medicines causing the greatest harm to the Victorian community will be monitored through SafeScript.

This includes all Schedule 8 medicines and some Schedule 4 medicines including all benzodiazepines, such as diazepam, ‘Z-drugs’ such as zolpidem, quetiapine and codeine.

The data required for SafeScript will be collected automatically from Prescription Exchange Services (PES) which currently supports the electronic transfer of prescriptions from medical clinics to pharmacies. No direct data entry will be required by doctors.

Prescribers using medical software connected to a PES will receive pop-up notifications from their desktops within seconds when a prescription has been issued or dispensed, prompting clinicians to review the patient’s history in SafeScript if necessary. Clicking on the notification will take doctors directly to the patient’s SafeScript record.

Prescribers are encouraged to contact their software vendor for further information on whether their clinic is connected to a PES. There is no cost involved with connecting to a PES, which is existing eHealth infrastructure.

Prescribers will be able to access SafeScript regardless of whether they issue computer-generated or handwritten prescriptions. PES connection provides a better user experience, however it will also be possible to access SafeScript via a secure web portal for those that handwrite prescriptions.

What training is available?

Doctors are strongly encouraged to take advantage of SafeScript online and face-to-face training for prescribers and pharmacists which attracts CPD points. Online training modules include:

  • Module 1: The SafeScript systemSafeScript provides additional information to assist with clinical decisions on prescribing or dispensing high-risk medicines.
  • Module 2: High-risk medicines and clinical practice – an opportunity to reconsider how prescribers and pharmacists might manage safety concerns about patients with prescription medicine dependence or those showing signs of high-risk use.
  • Module 3: Having challenging conversations: high-risk medicines, dependence and your patient – promoting sensitive and respectful communication to respond effectively to the needs of patients who may be at risk of harm from prescription medicines.

Online training will be available to prescribers throughout Victoria. However, face-to-face training will focus on the Western Victoria Primary Health Network catchment area initially before being rolled out to the rest of Victoria.

For further information, visit the SafeScript website, or download the SafeScript FAQs for health professionals. Questions can also be directed to safescript@dhhs.vic.gov.au or 03 9096 5633.

More information

Read our recent article, Prescription drug-related deaths: coroner calls for mandatory education, download our factsheet Prescribing drugs of dependence or complete our eLearning course, Prescribing: principles and practices.

If you need expert advice around prescribing drugs of dependence, call Avant’s Medico-legal Advisory Service (MLAS) on 1800 128 268, available 24/7 in emergencies or via email at nca@avant.org.au.

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