More than 74 million prescriptions were dispensed in Australia last year alone. With 46 per cent of patients reporting that they require routine medication to manage their health, it’s clear that repeat prescriptions are an integral part of the wellbeing of many Australians. 
 
Patients need to ensure they obtain a repeat prescription before their current one runs out. How do GPs handle patient requests for ongoing medication? Do patients have a good experience with their practice when they need such medication?
 
We surveyed more than 2000 patients and 27 GPs to find out.
 
Just over 90 per cent of patients said they need to make an appointment for repeat prescriptions of their regular medication, yet 80 per cent of doctors believe there are circumstances where they could safely prescribe repeat prescriptions without a face to face consult.
 
A major reason for this disconnect is the current Medicare scheme in Australia. Practices have flexibility for managing repeat prescription requests, as it’s legal for GPs to write a prescription without seeing the patient, However, GPs can only bill Medicare for face-to-face appointments. This has created an environment where patients must come in for a consult, even if the doctor may not think it’s necessary. 
 
With practices often experiencing high demand and thus a shortage of appointments, we believe there are ways that this healthcare experience could be improved for everyone. 
 
Are patients interested in requesting repeat scripts from their GP online instead of in-person?
 
 
The vast majority of patients (88 per cent) would be interested in requesting repeat scripts online, instead of attending an appointment. Conversely, GPs think that only about half of patients would be interested. 
 
Would patient satisfaction increase if they could request repeat scripts online?
A significant 73 per cent of patients said their satisfaction with their experience would increase if their GP allowed online repeat script requests. 
 
We asked patients to let us know their challenges with requesting repeat scripts today and how they think online requests may benefit them. Many people expressed frustration with the amount of time and effort it currently takes to get their scripts. They have to find an appointment slot that works for them and their doctor, potentially take time off work, usually wait a while at reception, then finally see their doctor for what ends up being a two-minute consult. 
 
At busy practices, patients were concerned about taking up valuable appointment times from patients that were sick or in real need of an in-person consult. Patients continue to tell us that they want and expect their doctor to assess the need for their repeat medication, however, they believe this assessment can often be done in other ways. Patients say they would even prefer picking up the script from the practice over waiting for an in-person consultation. Why? It comes down to how much value they get from each healthcare experience. 
 
Would patients pay to be able to request repeat scripts online for pickup at the practice?
 
Australians have free access to healthcare, yet many are already paying a gap at mixed billing practices for increased flexibility and options. In our research, we found that willingness to pay for online scripts was not just limited to mixed billing patients. Just under 30 per cent of bulk billing patients valued the convenience of online script requests over the potential costs. 
 
How can GPs adapt to the changing needs of their patients? And what’s in it for healthcare providers?
 
At HealthEngine, we believe that each face-to-face consultation should be high quality and valuable, as both the patient and doctor have set aside time to be in the same place, at the same time. We’re looking for GPs and practices interested in transforming access to healthcare by offering online repeat prescription requests to patients. The benefits include:
 
  • High quality consults: improve appointment availability for patients who need to be seen in person
  • Unlock revenue: you choose how much to charge while we facilitate billing – no chasing up payments
  • Reduce fragmented care: providing options will improve patient loyalty and help you have a full picture of their medical history
  • Streamline patient requests: get a simple view of each request so you can determine if an appointment is needed or not
  • Free up your front desk: reduce phone calls so staff can focus on higher value activities 
Register your interest today and help shape the future of Australian healthcare.

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