PharmaNet is the province-wide network that links all B.C. pharmacies to a central data system. Every prescription dispensed in community pharmacies in B.C. is entered into PharmaNet.
PharmaNet, administered by the Ministry of Health, 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, hospitals, community health practices, the College of Pharmacists of B.C. and the College of Physicians & Surgeons of B.C.
PharmaNet increases your safety by allowing authorized health care practitioners to access information about all prescription medications dispensed to you by any B.C. community pharmacy. 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.
When you present your prescription at a B.C. community 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.
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.
PharmaNet does not record prescription drugs that you receive
- while in a hospital or designated mental health centre (though emergency department physicians may update your record with information about drugs they provided, allergies, or adverse drug reactions)
- 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 (though physicians may update your record with information about drugs they provide)
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.
Before a person can use PharmaNet, they must
- be granted access as an authorized user
- sign a confidentiality agreement, and
- provide a unique identification code whenever they access PharmaNet.
Furthermore, PharmaNet users are granted access only to the type of information they require to perform 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.
- Medical device providers have access only to the history of claims they have submitted for you. They do not have access to your medication history.
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 PharmaNet record
You can request a printed copy of your PharmaNet record of prescription medication dispenses for the past 14 months through your local pharmacy. Your pharmacist will submit a request to the Ministry of Health, which will mail the information directly to you. Your PharmaNet record includes a list of each time someone has accessed your record (not associated with filling a prescription). For example, when the Ministry accesses your record to print it for you, there will be a record that your record was accessed.
If you would like your medication record from before the previous 14 months, you can request it directly from the Ministry of Health. Complete form HLTH 5551 Consent for Release of PharmaNet Patient Record. Complete the entire form (except the patient representative information if not applicable). The Recipient must be a pharmacy of your choice: the Ministry must send your record to a pharmacy, where they can ensure your identity before releasing the information. Ensure you include the date range of records you are requesting, as well as the reason for the request (e.g., for your own information or records, for litigation, etc.). Your signature must be witnessed by another person.
After you submit this request, the Ministry will process it and send your printed medication record to the pharmacy you have identified on the form. (This may take up to a month from the date your request is received.) The pharmacy will call you to come pick it up, at which time they will confirm your identity.
B.C. community pharmacists
Pharmacists can access your medication information only in the performance of their professional duties. Pharmacists can view your:
- demographic information
- medication history
- 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 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 apply for access to PharmaNet to view up-to-date records of medications dispensed to a patient.
Once they have enrolled with the Ministry of Health, community health practitioners can view your:
- demographic information
- medication history in PharmaNet
Emergency departments—Practitioners and staff working on their behalf 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 undertakings of confidentiality.
Hospitals and designated mental health facilities—Access to PharmaNet is available to authorized practitioners and pharmacists working in hospitals and designated mental health facilities in British Columbia, giving these health care professionals access to patient medication histories.
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 providers can view
- demographic information
- claims history only for the claims that they submitted
Device providers 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 has access to PharmaNet patient and drug data.
College of Physicians & Surgeons of B.C.—The College of Physicians and 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.
Can I limit access to my PharmaNet record? (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.
- Learn how to apply, remove or change a protective word.
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.