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Today, our medical records are more accessible than ever and convenient for use by our healthcare providers. Information about our prescriptions, doctor visits and pathology tests are all online these days along with a number of controls in place to safeguard our privacy. An example of an online health database is the MyHealth Record.  When the MyHealth Record system went online in 2018, an important feature that Positive Life NSW advocated for at the time, was to allow people to ‘opt out’ if desired. The ‘opt out’ option gave people the choice to have their medical records available for health professionals’ easy use online or removed accordingly. Unlike the MyHealth Record, you will not be able to ‘opt out’ of SafeScript NSW.

SafeScript NSW is a ‘real-time’ electronic database that prescribers (doctors, nurse practitioners and dentists) and pharmacists can use to look up your medication history while you wait. SafeScript only includes information about prescriptions you have had filled for medicines that are considered ‘high risk’, such as opioids (drugs like codeine, morphine and oxycodone) and benzodiazepines (drugs like Valium, Mogadon and Xanax), the drug type, strength, frequency, route (oral, injection, etc), quantity, date of prescription etc.

All Schedule 8 medicines will be included in SafeScript NSW. Your medication history will be searchable back to 7 April 2021. The system sends an ‘alert’ to prescribers and pharmacists who have signed up for the system when they are writing or filling your script for one of the medicines included in SafeScript NSW. Your information will also be searchable at any time but only by health practitioners involved in your care.

SafeScript NSW was rolled out in the Hunter New England and Central Coast areas in early November 2021, and has been rolled out to Northern Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains, as part of Phase 2 of the system’s state-wide rollout, with the rest of NSW to follow from May 2022 to mid-2022 at the latest.  It will be part of the national Real Time Prescription Monitoring program which was developed in response to concerns around overdose and drug dependency.

Some community concerns about SafeScript NSW have mainly been around the risk of stigma and discrimination when we interact with our healthcare providers in chemists, emergency departments or clinics, especially when healthcare providers find out about a person’s previous or current medical conditions, medications for pain relief, anxiety or mental health, or drug use even if it is in the past.  Many of us living with HIV already see different health care providers for different issues or reasons, to protect our privacy and choice, and there are real concerns about the additional questions or hurdles that this real-time monitoring system may introduce, including the risk of pushing some people into riskier medication use, or even on to the blackmarket.

The big question is what does this mean for you? Most of us living with HIV have a good relationship with our doctors, pharmacist and other healthcare providers, however if you need to talk to someone living with HIV about your experience with SafeScript NSW, you can call Positive Life NSW on (02) 8357 8386 or 1800 245 677 or call the NUAA PeerLine on 1800 644 413.

Either Positive Life NSW or NUAA can support you if you want to make a complaint if you are treated unfairly, want to challenge a decision, or get the support you need to ensure your health needs are met.

NSW Health have worked with NUAA to create information and resources for community members to understand how the SafeScript NSW system works and also to know your rights in relation to this new system. To learn more about the system and how it will operate, please click here to read NUAA’s article ‘Are you ready for SafeScript?’

Adapted from Users News, 23 December 2021, NUAA

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