This blog is totally independent and has only three major objectives.
The first is to inform readers of news and happenings in the e-Health domain, both here in Australia and world-wide.
The second is to provide commentary on e-Health in Australia and to foster improvement where I can.
The third is to encourage discussion of the matters raised in the blog so hopefully readers can get a balanced view of what is really happening and what successes are being achieved.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Australia’s Discombobulated E-Health Policy Governance Strikes Again! It Is Getting Really Silly.
Tasmanian Drug Abuse Prevention Scheme Goes National
A system developed in Tasmania to prevent the abuse of painkilling prescription drugs has been so successful it will be rolled out across Australia, Health Minister Michelle O’Byrne said today.
Ms O’Byrne said the Australian Government’s decision is a huge vote of confidence in Tasmania’s system, which provides doctors and pharmacists with real time information about a patient’s history of prescribed drugs.
“We are leading the nation with our efforts to ensure medicines are used safely and effectively and to protect patients from the growing global problem of prescription drug misuse and diversion,” she said.
“We know that medicines, including opioids, play an important role in maintaining health, preventing illness and treating disease when used properly.
“Given to the right patients, under the right conditions, in the right doses and for the right length of time, they can improve health.
“But they can be dangerous when misused or abused.
“Our scheme alerts doctors and pharmacists to the possible abuse of prescribed medication through real-time information on a patient’s history of prescribed drugs to help them prescribe appropriately.
“It shows when repeat prescriptions are being claimed in quick succession which helps to identify patients who may be taking too much medication or perhaps passing it to others.”
Ms O’Byrne said previously, prescription information was only reported retrospectively on a monthly basis, which was too slow to guide required dosing and to prevent problems and protect patients.
The misuse, overuse and abuse of opioids and other drugs of dependence, such as morphine, is a significant public health issue in Tasmania and the rest of Australia.
“We are proud that our response to this challenge has been recognised as one that will benefit the entire nation,” Ms O’Byrne said.
“As well as promoting the proper use of opioids, our project aims to reduce some of the adverse events that arise as a result of inappropriate opioid prescribing.
“Reduction in the scale of this problem and the deaths it causes is a significant positive preventative health initiative which will save people’s lives.”
The system provides secure controlled access to appropriate information at any time for clinicians who need to prescribe drugs of dependence and are unsure of their patient’s previous clinical history relating to these drugs.
Ms O’Byrne said information provided is restricted to that needed for a clinician to make an informed decision for a patient.
“The push for a national system similar to Tasmania’s comes from key professional organisations and coroners in numerous jurisdictions.
“A national scheme will also allow for information sharing across jurisdictions so we can all work together to minimise abuse and illegal use of these substances.”
New System to Crackdown on Prescription Painkiller Abuse
The Australian Government will set up a new $5 million national electronic records system to combat abuse of controlled drugs including prescription painkillers.
12 February 2012
The Gillard Government will set up a new $5 million national electronic records system to combat abuse of controlled drugs including prescription painkillers, said Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek.
The Electronic Recording and Reporting of Controlled Drugs system will be made available to doctors, pharmacists and state and territory health authorities across Australia to monitor the prescribing and dispensing of addictive drugs in real time.
“While controlled drugs such as oxycodone, morphine and codeine play an important clinical role in managing pain, abuse of these drugs can cause enormous harm and is a growing problem in the community,” said Ms Plibersek.
“Following calls from coroners, law enforcers and consumer groups for greater control over distribution of the drugs, the Gillard Government is pleased to be making this electronic system available.”
Ms Plibersek said health professionals and administrators will be able to immediately detect people suspected, for example, of trafficking in painkillers, forging prescriptions and “doctor-shopping.”
“The new records system will be able to flag patients in real time who have repeatedly sought controlled drugs, helping to prevent people from inappropriately using the drugs or selling them to others.”
Health professionals will be able to access a centralised database over a secure computer network, which will contain prescription history records.
“If a pharmacist determines it is not clinically appropriate to dispense a medicine to a patient, it is their duty of care to restrict access to that patient.”
This information will enable state and territory health department regulators, pharmacists and prescribers to minimise the abuse of these medicines while also ensuring necessary access for consumers who have a legitimate need for these important medicines.
The amount of prescription opioids used in Australia is growing. According to the Internal Medicine Journal, the total value of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme opioid prescriptions increased from $2 million in 1992 to $7 million in 2007.
Ms Plibersek said the Electronic Recording and Reporting of Controlled Drugs system was first developed by the Tasmanian Government.
The Gillard Government has signed a licensing agreement with the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services and will make a nationalised system available to states and territories, which are responsible for monitoring controlled drugs, from July this year.
“The system has proved popular among Tasmanian health professionals where it has been operational for more than a year.”
Currently, some states use paper-based prescription records, which are slow and require significant resourcing, while electronic recording in others states is inconsistent between jurisdictions. A national electronic system will allow pharmacists to check on prescription records from other states.
Drugs that will be monitored on the system are listed under Schedule 8 of the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons, which is administered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Abuse of controlled drugs can have severe health and economic consequences such as addiction, disruption to families, loss of work productivity, risk of blood-borne diseases for injecting drug users, depression, anxiety, overdose and even death.
As I understand it essentially this proposal is for a national database of dispensed S8 (Drugs of Addiction) medications to be established that a pharmacist can look up and see if there has been more than they desire dispensing of such medicines to catch ‘doctor shoppers’ etc.
Now all this is well and good, and well motivated, considered in isolation - the problem is that it is not in isolation. There are public (think PCEHR) and private initiatives (think Medisecure and eRx) all designed to improve medication use and patient medication information availability.
Surely an initiative of this sort should actually be integrated into the overall directions for e-Health and not be announced and implemented as some sort of minute and unconnected component of the overall flow of development. I wonder is the IHI Service being used for instance? Surely it would be highly relevant? The releases don’t mention it. I wonder is this project in any way connected to the much vaunted Project Stop? See here: