About ten years ago I did a locum in an innovative GP practice in The Netherlands. When prescribing medications, the computer system allowed me to either print the script and hand it to my patient, or send it electronically to the pharmacy. Consumers who elected the second option, were able to collect their medications at the pharmacy twenty minutes later.
I’m not sure how secure the system was, but it was easy to use, saved a lot of paper, and prevented lost scripts and medication errors.
ePrescribing in Australia
Here in Australia doctors are printing or handwriting scripts. This month however I noticed a little QR code in the top right corner after printing a script. It took me a while to figure out what it was for: Patients can scan this code with a mobile device, submit the information electronically to the pharmacy of their choice and pick the script up on a preferred day and time.
The app, developed by the Fred IT Group, is called eRx Express. It can be downloaded for free on mobile devices. It seems that the benefit for health consumers is reduced waiting time at the pharmacy – which is great, especially if people have already been waiting to see their doctor.
I also have a few reservations…
First of all, consumers have to scan and send information via their smart phones, and they still need to bring in the paper script when collecting their medicines at the pharmacy. So it involves a few more steps and we’re not yet saving trees.
Second, as always, I would like to know what happens with the data during and after scanning, transmission over the internet and on the servers of the Fred IT Group and others. Is the information sold or disclosed to third parties?
It would be good if consumer details and their prescription history would not be collected or used for other purposes. But usually, when something is free, we become the product. In other words, there is often a price to pay with regards to our personal data.
The small print
You agree that we may disclose your de-identified prescription data to selected third parties for the research and marketing purposes of those third parties.
We do not warrant (…) that any data transmissions between you and us will be secure and that any data you send us shall at all times remain secure.
We reserve the right to (…) charge for the App or service provided to you at any time and for any reason (whether stated or not).
As long as private or governmental organisations want control of our health data for other purposes than patient care, eHealth initiatives will not take off. Of course health consumers are free to use this service, but at the moment the benefits do not seem to outweigh the risks.