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10 days to 17 seconds at the touch of a button

21 June 2006

10 days to 17 seconds at the touch of a button

Medicines approvals that had taken 10 days can now occur in as little as 17 seconds, thanks to a new electronic system available for doctors.

The Minister of Health Pete Hodgson and the Medical Director of PHARMAC Dr Peter Moodie are pleased to jointly announce the launch of an advanced new system for use by medical practitioners to obtain special authorities for medicines.

Special Authority is a targeting mechanism to ensure medicines are prescribed for patients who most need them. Until recently, applications involved filling out a form and faxing it to HealthPAC (part of the Ministry of Health) who then manually processed the form within 10 days.

Now, thanks to an online system, approvals are available in as little as 17 seconds, bringing substantial time savings for patients and GPs.

Dr Peter Moodie says putting the system in place is a significant step forward in that patients and doctors have much more rapid access to subsidised medicines.

“It is always pleasing to take a step that makes life a bit easier for doctors and patients. The wait for a Special Authority approval can be frustrating and this new electronic system means that approvals can be obtained while the patient is still with their doctor,” Dr Moodie says.

The electronic system has been up and running as a pilot scheme for a number of months, and is now processing more than 1000 applications each fortnight.

“We have been careful to roll this out gradually to ensure that any bugs in the system were identified and eliminated,” Dr Moodie says. “We have confidence in the system and the fact that it can process over 1000 applications a fortnight, and that over 1000 doctors are now using it illustrates that the system works well.”

The system answers a key concern for healthcare information providers, security and privacy, says Quentin Wilson, Group Manager of HealthPAC.

“The Ministry has developed a highly secure and technically advanced solution that enables practitioners to connect directly with the Ministry using either a web Browser, such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer, or directly from their Practice Management System,” Mr Wilson says.

“This enables Special Authority requests to be processed in a “real time” situation.”

Making the system available has involved a lot of work over a long period of time. Key players have included HealthPAC, HealthLink, MedTech and PHARMAC as well as the many doctors who have trialled the system to make sure that it could all work. The Ministry of Health has invested $1.5 million in the system and PHARMAC has invested $500,000.

Dr Moodie says the project’s success has hinged on all players working together with a common goal in mind – improving the approval system used by clinicians.

Dr Jonathan Fox, President of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, says the new system is a significant improvement on manual processing.

“It is a very simple system for doctors to use,” says Dr Fox. “Now doctors can, in most cases, obtain Special Authority approval while their patient is sitting with them, should they wish. This is a real step forward.”

“I use the system myself and recommend all doctors take advantage of it.”


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