PharmaNet

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What is PharmaNet?

PharmaNet is the province-wide network that links all B.C. pharmacies to a central set of data systems. Every prescription dispensed in B.C. is entered into PharmaNet.

PharmaNet—administered by the Ministry of Health and the College of Pharmacists of B.C.—was developed in consultation with health professionals and the public to improve prescription safety and support prescription claim processing.

PharmaNet users include community pharmacies, hospital pharmacies, emergency departments, community health practices, the College of Pharmacists of B.C. and the College of Physicians & Surgeons of B.C. 

Making this comprehensive information available to health professionals provides them with a stronger base for clinical decision making, supporting better care and improved patient safety.

How does PharmaNet improve patient care and safety?

PharmaNet increases your safety by allowing authorized health care practitioners to access up-to-the-minute information about all prescription medications dispensed to you anywhere in B.C. Using PharmaNet, pharmacists can quickly identify—and warn you about—potentially harmful medication interactions. Your PharmaNet information is also available to hospital emergency departments and some community health practices, hospitals and mental health facilities.

PharmaNet:

  • Helps to prevent accidental duplication of prescriptions and prescription fraud
  • Protects you from drug interactions and dosage errors
  • Promotes the cost-effective use of drugs
  • Offers authorized health professionals the comprehensive medication information they need to give you high quality care
  • Provides immediate adjudication of claims under the BC PharmaCare program.

How does PharmaNet adjudicate claims?

When you present your prescription at a B.C. pharmacy, the pharmacist transmits the details of the prescription to PharmaNet. PharmaNet:

  • Checks your eligibility for PharmaCare coverage of the drug
  • Determines the portion of the prescription cost you will be required to pay and the portion PharmaCare covers and, for those registered for the Fair PharmaCare plan, the amount that will accumulate towards your deductible and family maximum
  • Immediately transmits the adjudication results to the pharmacy.

What information is stored on PharmaNet?

Your PharmaNet profile includes:

  • demographic information such as your Personal Health Number, name, address and date of birth 
  • a medication history that includes
    • all prescription drugs dispensed to you at community pharmacies or community health practices that are authorized to dispense medications including the portion of the cost that PharmaCare paid
    • non-prescription medications you take (entered at your and/or your pharmacist’s discretion)
    • prosthetic and orthotic devices and supplies that are eligible for PharmaCare coverage
    • any reported drug allergies and clinical conditions 
    • drug information and drug interaction evaluations
  • claims information including eligibility, coverage and deductibles.

Note: PharmaNet does not record prescription drugs that you receive

  • while in a hospital or designated mental health centre*
  • through the BC Cancer Agency (i.e., oncology medications such as chemotherapy drugs)
  • through the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
  • through the BC Transplant Society (i.e., transplant-related drugs)
  • through the BC Renal Agency (i.e., drugs for kidney dialysis) 
  • as samples from your health care practitioner

* Emergency Department physicians, however, can update your record with information about drugs they provided.

What safeguards are in place to protect my privacy?

PharmaNet complies with the B.C. Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Pharmaceutical Services Act. It is subject to strict privacy and security measures designed to prevent unauthorized access and protect the information of British Columbians.

For instance, PharmaNet operates behind a "firewall" that prevents unauthorized users from accessing PharmaNet.  Before a person can use PharmaNet, they have to

  • be granted acess by the Ministry and placed on a list of authorized users
  • sign a confidentiality agreement before being granted access, and 
  • provide a unique identification code whenever they access PharmaNet. 

Furthermore, PharmaNet consists of separate components—each component is accessible only to the specific users who require access for their work.

For example:

  • Health care practitioners cannot view your financial information (i.e., your Fair PharmaCare deductible and family maximum, how close you are to meeting those, or any information used to arrive at your level of PharmaCare coverage). Only the Ministry of Health and Health Insurance BC can view that information for the purpose of administering your PharmaCare coverage.
  • When a prescription is processed on PharmaNet, PharmaNet indicates only the amount PharmaCare is contributing to that specific prescription. 
  • Medical device providers do not need—and therefore do not have—access to any part of your medication history.

Who has access to information on PharmaNet?

To protect patient privacy, access to PharmaNet is tightly controlled. Various groups of users are given access only to the information they need to know to fulfill their duties and responsibilities as health care providers. The following groups have access to information on PharmaNet.

Access to your own medication data

You can request a printed copy of your PharmaNet record through your local pharmacy. Your pharmacist will submit the request to the College of Pharmacists of B.C., who will mail the information directly to you. Your PharmaNet record includes a list of any accesses to your records not associated with filling a prescription.

B.C. pharmacists

Pharmacists can access your medication information only in the performance of their professional duties. Pharmacists can view your:

  • demographic information
  • medication history in PharmaNet
  • claims history (the portion of an individual drug’s cost that was paid for by PharmaCare)

If a pharmacist accesses your medication history without dispensing a prescription, the pharmacist must keep a record of the reason for the access. The College of Pharmacists of B.C. is responsible for monitoring and investigating inappropriate access by its members.

B.C. health care providers

The following groups of health care providers may obtain access to PharmaNet.

Community health practitioners—Physicians licensed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC in community health practices (such as private practices, group practices, walk-in clinics, and diagnostic and treatment centres) and Nurse Practitioners licensed by the College of Registered Nurses of BC can request and receive access to PharmaNet so they can view up-to-date records of medications dispensed to a patient.

Once they have registered with the Ministry of Health, community health practitioners can view your:

  • demographic information
  • medication history in PharmaNet

All information they obtain from PharmaNet is subject to the same confidentiality provisions as all other health information.

Emergency departments—Practitioners and their supervised persons in emergency departments can view medication histories and update them with information about adverse drug reactions, allergies, clinical conditions and/or drugs provided by the emergency department. All Emergency Department staff who access PharmaNet must sign appropriate undertakings of confidentiality

Hospitals and designated mental health facilities— Access to PharmaNet is available to authorized physicians and pharmacists working in hospitals and designated mental health facilities in British Columbia, giving these health care professionals access to patient community medication histories. This access promotes better patient care and improves patient safety.

Providers of medical devices and supplies—Some non-pharmaceutical suppliers (such as prosthetic and orthotic suppliers, ostomy suppliers, mastectomy suppliers, insulin pump vendors and medical supply stores) can submit claims to PharmaCare.

These device and supplies providers can view

  • limited parts of your demographic information 
  • claims history only for the claims that they submitted

They do not have access to medication histories.

Licensing bodies and the Ministry of Health

College of Pharmacists of B.C.—The College of Pharmacists regulates the profession in B.C. and manages some elements of PharmaNet medication data. The College does not have access to claims adjudication information.

College of Physicians & Surgeons of B.C.—The College of Physicians & Surgeons has access to PharmaNet patient and drug data only as required for the monitoring of prescribing practices of their members.

Ministry of Health and Health Insurance B.C.—The Ministry of Health and Health Insurance BC have access on a strict need-to-know basis to the least information necessary to carry out their duties.

Limiting access with a protective word

You can limit access to your information by attaching a protective word (password) to your PharmaNet record. With the protective word in place, authorized health care practitioners can access your medication history only if you share the protective word with them.

However, if you are unconscious or unable to provide your protective word, hospital and emergency department practitioners may have it removed if they determine access to your PharmaNet patient profile is necessary for safe and effective treatment.

If your protective word is removed in an emergency, you will be notified in writing. You can then ask your pharmacist or Health Insurance BC (HIBC) to attach a new protective word to your record.

Can I choose not to use PharmaNet?

No. All prescription medications dispensed by community pharmacies in B.C. must be recorded on the system. Only by recording every prescription dispensed in the province can PharmaNet protect British Columbians from adverse reactions to medications and serve to reduce prescription fraud.

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