An electronic medical prescription service is to be rolled out in France over the next two years.
Following trials that have taken place in several departments of France, on-line prescriptions in GP and consultant surgeries will be introduced across the country, gradually replacing paper prescriptions - over 1 billion of which are issued each year.
The move forms part of the introduction last year of a centralised on-line medical records system (Dossier Médical Partagé - DMP).
The objective is to improve the patient's care path, from consultation with the general practitioner or consultant to the delivery of prescribed medications by the chemist.
In particular, the government state that the e-prescription (ordonnance numérique) will allow the doctor to know if the patient has recovered his medication, although just how the system will ensure that they also take their medication is not stated.
It is also hoped that it will reduce fraud arising from the falsification of paper based prescriptions.
As the digital prescription will also be available to other medical professionals, it should also improve coordination between them. If a patient changes their GP (médecin traitant) the prescription record will also be available to their new GP. There are privacy controls that the patient can impose, as occurs currently with the DMP.
However, a great deal of the effectiveness of the measure will depend on just how many patients decide to create their own record, as it is not compulsory to do so. So far around eight million patients have opened a DMP, a number that is likely to increase significantly as a result of the Corvis-19 pandemic.
To ensure a smooth transition towards electronic only prescriptions, for the time being patients will also be issued with a paper prescription, which will have a barcode that the chemist can scan to issue the prescription. Eventually, a patient will merely be issued with a proof of receipt of the prescription, containing the barcode, which they provide to their chemist.
The introduction of e-prescriptions does not spell the demise of your health card (carte vitale), which will still need to be supplied to your doctor and to the chemist.
Unlike in the UK, which is also introducing electronic prescriptions, a patient will be able to use a chemist of their choice. In addition, again unlike in the UK, the system cannot be used to issue the patient with a repeat prescription without a prior consultation with their doctor.
The process has already been tested by a small number of chemists and doctors on a voluntary basis since July 2019, in the departments of Maine-et-Loire, Saône-et-Loire and Val-de-Marne.
The roll-out will also be applied to other medical services, such as physiotherapy, nurses and laboratory tests.