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. In 2007, over 47 million prescriptions were processed on PharmaNet and the system flagged more than 24 million potential drug interactions.

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, medical practices, the College of Pharmacists of B.C. and the College of Physicians & Surgeons of B.C.

Frequently Asked Questions about PharmaNet

How does PharmaNet improve patient care and safety?

PharmaNet increases your safety by allowing pharmacists 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 medical 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:

  • Validates the pharmacy's security authorization
  • 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 maintained on PharmaNet?

Your PharmaNet profile includes:

  • All drugs dispensed to you, any reported drug allergies and clinical conditions, and demographic information such as your Personal Health Number, name, address and date of birth
  • Drug information and drug interaction evaluations
  • Claims information including eligibility, coverage and deductibles.

Note: PharmaNet does not provide pharmacists with information about your level of Fair PharmaCare assistance. When your prescriptions are processed on PharmaNet, PharmaNet indicates only the amount PharmaCare is contributing to that specific prescription.

What safeguards are in place to protect my privacy?

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

For instance, PharmaNet operates behind a "firewall." All users must sign a confidentiality agreement before being granted access and must provide a unique identification code when logging on to PharmaNet. Furthermore, PharmaNet consists of separate components—each component is accessible only to the specific users who require access for their work.

Limiting access with a keyword

You can limit access to your information by asking your pharmacist to attach a keyword to your file. With the keyword in place, only pharmacists with whom you share the keyword can access your records. However, if you are unconscious or unable to provide your keyword, hospital and emergency department physicians may have it removed if they determine access to your PharmaNet patient profile is necessary for safe and effective treatment.

If your keyword is removed, you will be notified in writing. You can then have your pharmacist attach a new keyword to your record.

On request, PharmaCare Help Desk staff at Health Insurance BC can remove your keyword if you have forgotten it, but they cannot see your keyword or create one for you.

Who has access to 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.

Pharmacists. Pharmacists can access your medication information only in the performance of their professional duties. If a medication history is accessed when a prescription is not dispensed, 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.

Note: PharmaNet does not provide pharmacists with information about your level of Fair PharmaCare assistance. When your prescriptions are processed on PharmaNet, PharmaNet indicates only the amount PharmaCare is paying towards that specific prescription.

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

B.C. Physicians. Physicians in several health care settings may have access to PharmaNet. Information obtained from PharmaNet by any physician is subject to the same confidentiality provisions as all other health information.

  • Emergency department physicians. Doctors in emergency departments can view medication histories and update them with information about drugs provided by the emergency department.

Dispensing physicians. Some physicians dispense medications in addition to prescribing them. These physicians usually have a practice in a remote area without a community pharmacy. Connection to PharmaNet for a dispensing physician must be approved by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. and the College of Pharmacists of B.C.

  • Medical practices. Authorized medical practitioners in private practices, group practices, walk-in clinics, and diagnostic and treatment centres can request and receive, in a timely and secure manner, up-to-date PharmaNet records of medications dispensed to a patient.
  • 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.

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 patterns of their members.

Other health product providers. Some non-pharmaceutical suppliers submit claims to PharmaCare, for example, prosthetic and orthotic suppliers, ostomy suppliers, mastectomy suppliers, insulin pump vendors and medical supply stores. Some of these providers may have access allowing them to submit claims but they do not have access to medication histories.

Access by Ministry of Health and Health Insurance BC. The Ministry of Health and Health Insurance BC have access only to information on claims fully or partially paid by PharmaCare. It does not have access to medication histories.

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.

What is eHealth?

eHealth is an overarching term used to describe electronic health services and information delivered or enhanced through the Internet and related technologies.

The provincial government's eHealth Program sets out a group of initiatives and investments that will integrate electronic patient records and connect pharmacists, doctors, and other health care providers to new secure shared Electronic Health Records (EHRs).

For more information on eHealth, visit the eHealth Website.

Will eHealth change PharmaNet?

The eDrug Project, one of several projects under the eHealth initiative, will improve medication management and patient safety for British Columbians by upgrading and enhancing the existing PharmaNet system. The new PharmaNet system will be called PharmaNet-eRx.

A key enhancement will be “electronic prescribing.” This new capability will allow physicians to submit prescriptions to PharmaNet using their office computer system. Pharmacies will then be able to retrieve prescriptions from PharmaNet.

PharmaNet-eRx will also provide an expanded medication history that will include clinically relevant information from hospital stays as well as relevant oncology medications dispensed by the BC Cancer Agency.

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