We live in a world of electronics and wireless connections and yet some doctors are still writing out medical prescriptions on paper in many parts of the world. However that could be about to change, especially in Australia. Fred IT Group is a technology provider to the pharmacy industry that began in the garage of two men 29 years ago. In 2009, they started the process of helping the medical industry transition from paper to electronic prescriptions with the creation of eRx Script Exchange.
In 2020, Fred IT was working to make ePrescriptions a legal option for prescribing medication and had a six month timeline to design and build out the new platform. Along with the Australian Digital Health Agency, The Australian Department of Health and other health industry providers, they were working to centralise the process by enabling the technology and connecting all the various 50-60 industry vendors to the eRx platform, as well as getting everyone onboard to the new system. The design was formulated when the Covid-19 virus started spreading worldwide, forcing the Australian government to ask that ePrescriptions become a reality in eight weeks versus six months.
Luckily, Fred IT had already helped dispense a cumulative 3.5 billion prescriptions (or 350 million transactions per year for 10 years) which comprised approximately 90% of the prescriptions dispensed in Australia. So, when the government requested an accelerated schedule, Fred IT turned to Twilio for the most reliable solutions to ensure they could meet this new deadline. On May 6, 2021, Fred IT launched the new platform based on Twilio’s technologies and APIs. To date, over eleven million ePrescriptions’ have been created across Australia, with 21,000 doctors and 95% of pharmacies having prescribed and dispensed an ePrescription through the new platform.
It was easy to work with Twilio and a logical fit especially when we had to work within an expedited time frame.
There are several ways the new system works, and they all leverage Twilio’s messaging platforms in one form or another. The first is the token model that comes in the form of a QR-code which is provided to the patient via SMS or email. The patient can then present or send the token to their pharmacy of choice. The second is My Script List (MySL) which allows patients to provide consent to their doctors, pharmacies, and other 3rd party medical organisations to access their personal list of active prescriptions available for dispense. Both the token model, and MySL, utilise the Twilio Programmable Messaging platform.
Additionally, in an effort to make their platform more comprehensive, Fred IT has launched a solution to enable quick and easy SMS communications between the patient and the pharmacy. Leveraging the most popular social messaging app worldwide, Fred IT chose Twilio’s WhatsApp for Business API to power this new feature, making it even easier for patients to manage their ePrescriptions’. Patients will be able to access their MySL to message their pharmacy and order prescriptions via WhatsApp.
“We looked at a range of different potential partners and found that the wide array of features Twilio offered were aligned with our innovation strategy for ePrescriptions,” said David Freemantle, General Manager Product, Fred IT Group. “The system we have chosen to build, with the help of Twilio’s technologies, means that the whole industry wins because it’s based on a stable and reliable platform for delivering ePrescriptions to patients.”
Given that Twilio’s solutions are programmable versus out-of-the box, companies like Fred have the opportunity to build on Twilio's APIs. This was an important factor when Fred was evaluating vendor partners because an out-of-the box solution would not have allowed Fred IT’s tech team to easily and safely develop the right system. Twilio’s APIs were able to integrate with Fred IT's system in a way no other vendor could. In addition, the Fred IT tech team needed the right level of “smarts” that only the Twilio tech team could provide to ensure the highest quality ePrescription platform was delivered in a short amount of time - a level of intelligence that for example, local carriers in Australia couldn’t yet support. Fred IT also chose Twilio and its solutions because they offered:
・A programmable messaging platform – offering scalability with messaging services that would support future volume growth
・An API for WhatsApp Business – providing integration capabilities with Fred IT's system
・Support for different workflows for both the processing and dispensing of ePrescriptions and the consent process itself through Twilio Studio
・Rich documentation and ease of integration with Fred IT's code base
・Professional services and technical support and expertise
While the challenges ahead are not technical in nature, there is much work to be done to bring the remaining pharmacies, doctors and other health industry organisations onboard. It’s a new mindset that Fred IT hopes to see additional acceptance around. However, ePrescriptions are already perceived to be making life easier and more efficient for both pharmacies and patients. With Twilio as its partner of choice, Fred IT is well positioned to continue growing the new system into a fully accepted nationwide solution.