PharmaNet, which is managed by the Ministry of Health, is a secure province -wide network that links all British Columbian pharmacies to a central set of data systems. Using PharmaNet, authorized health professionals can access patient records which include information about all prescription medications dispensed to an individual anywhere in BC.


EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, the processing time for PharmaNet Patient Record requests are 60 business days.

Assigning Personal Health Numbers (PHNs) to Patients

Although about four million people live in BC, more than eight million personal health numbers (PHN) currently exist in the BC health system. Duplicate, invalid and inaccurate PHNs cause all kinds of health-related and administrative problems. Multiple PHNs place patients at risk of dispensing errors and adverse drug reactions resulting from incomplete medical information.

Each PHN is a unique number used to identify anyone who accesses the BC health system. Many legitimate PHNs relate to out-of-province visitors and deceased patients. However, many more PHNs are created daily when busy pharmacists accidentally generate duplicates.

The College is working with the Ministry of Health Services and PharmaNet to weed out inaccurate PHNs. Flipping a patient's day and month of birth, and variations in name spelling, are the most common glitches. The system is also clogged by PHNs inappropriately issued for family pets, or to identify doctor's offices, clinics and hospitals.

A link to a PDF of the PHN Quick Reference Card appears in the index at the top of this page. Please make sure all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can easily access this PHN Reference Card at their workstations.

You may also receive a list of inappropriate PHNs issued by your pharmacy. Please review this information and make sure all pharmacists and support staff understand the process for assigning a PHN. The College will continue to monitor invalid and duplicate PHNs and inform pharmacies as needed.

Find out more on the PharmaCare website:

PHN Do's and Don't's

  • Do check ID and confirm birth date and name spelling before requesting a PHN through PharmaNet.
  • Do contact the PharmaNet Help Desk and ask them to correct the PHN if you realize you've added a PHN with the wrong name or birth date.
  • Don't issue a new PHN to correct an error made in an existing PHN.
  • Do review the PHN Quick Reference Card for tips on searching for PHNs.
  • Do make sure all pharmacists and pharmacy techs can easily access a PHN Quick Reference Card at their workstations.
  • Don't issue PHNs for offices, clinics, pharmacies, family pets, or other animals.
  • Do contact the PharmaNet Help Desk for assistance if you cannot find the patient’s PHN on a PharmaNet search and it is likely they have had a PHN in BC before.
Obtaining a PharmaNet Patient Record

Do you know what to do if an individual enters your pharmacy and asks for a copy of their PharmaNet patient record? As with any type of counseling, a few questions can clarify the request and provide you with an action plan.

Ask if they want a copy of their current record, which is a list of PharmaNet transactions (all medication entries and access occurrences) for the past 14 months. If this is what the person is looking for, they have come to the right place: requests for current PharmaNet patient records can be made at any pharmacy in British Columbia.

If the individual is looking for a record earlier than the past 14 months, they need to contact CPBC, because this is a request for archived information. This article describes archival requests later on; for now, let’s go over the process for accommodating current patient record requests.

3 Easy Steps

  1. Positively identify the patient

    View primary and/or secondary ID according to college guidelines, preferably including one picture ID.

    As the PharmaNet patient record is private and confidential, family members must produce ID and can request only their own record. If the request is on behalf of a child, use your professional judgment and privacy legislation guidelines to decide if a parent can request on a child’s behalf. A child considered old enough to make a health care decision is also considered responsible enough to make this decision. If you have any questions regarding a minor, please contact the College. 

  2. Confirm the patient’s address on PharmaNet

    To ensure the patient record is mailed to the correct address, check mailing information with the patient and update the PharmaNet database if necessary.

  3. Process the request on your local system

    Select the function on your local system and transmit the request via PharmaNet, according to your software vendor’s instructions. The College will receive the request, print the record, and mail it directly to the patient, free of charge. The PharmaNet patient record cannot legally be printed at the pharmacy; a screenshot of the patient’s PharmaNet record is not acceptable and should not be produced.

What they receive

The PharmaNet patient record will include:

  • Current demographic information: name, address, phone number, personal health number and gender on record with the Ministry of Health.
  • Clinical information: current and chronic medical conditions and the person who reported the information (patient, pharmacist, or prescriber).
  • Adverse drug reaction information: allergies and medication side effects and the person who reported the information.
  • Medication history: all prescriptions dispensed at PharmaNet-connected pharmacies in the past 14 months. Includes the prescription number, date dispensed, drug identification number, brand name, strength and dosage form of the drug, quantity dispensed and prescriber.
  • Medication record access: each access made to the clinical information, adverse drug reaction information, or the medication history by pharmacists, emergency department physicians, GPs, the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia or the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia is recorded.

What they won’t receive

The PharmaNet patient record does not include details about the costs of any dispensed medications. This information can be requested from the pharmacy that dispensed the medication or from PharmaCare for medications it covers. The PharmaNet record does not include the name of the pharmacy or dispensing pharmacists. 

Archived patient records

If an individual is seeking their PharmaNet patient record for a period earlier than the past 14 months, this is an archived records request. This is done through the College of Pharmacists of BC at 604-733-2440 or 1-800-491-6333.

Patient record key word

Pharmacists may also be asked by patients about applying a key word to their PharmaNet patient record. Be sure you know what steps to take in your local software program to help a patient if they which to add this security feature to their record. See “Identifying Patients for PharmaNet Purposes” in the Related Documents section. 

PharmaCare Information and Access Audits

Once a year every pharmacy in British Columbia receives a PharmaNet access audit. The audit lists every non-dispensing PharmaNet access during a randomly selected two-week period.

BC's Information and Privacy Commissioner strongly supports this process. It helps the College assure the public that pharmacists look at PharmaNet records only for appropriate reasons.

Here's how an audit works. The College sends the pharmacy a printout listing pharmacy name and code, date of access, patient's name and PHN, pharmacist's name and ID. The audit comes with a cover letter and instructions for the manager asking for a reply within a month. Many pharmacies return the audit within a week, and the college appreciates these prompt replies.

Pharmacy managers can simplify the audit process by establishing a system that allows pharmacists to record non-dispensing access. The access audit helps the college verify that pharmacists keep appropriate records. There are many valid reasons for accessing PharmaNet. The audit is not meant to discourage appropriate patient record checks.

If you have questions about a PharmaNet access audit, please contact the college by email or call 604-733-2440 or 800-663-1940.

For more information on PharmaCare, please visit the PharmaCare website:

Office-use Medications (O-Med)

All medication dispensed to practitioners (physicians, dentists, veterinarians and midwives) for their clinics for administration to patients are considered to be "office-use medications" and must be transmitted to PharmaNet. All pharmacies are assigned a unique "O-Med PHN" that must be used for the transmission of office-use medications. O-Med PHNs are not to be shared with other stores.

Call the PharmaNet Help Desk at 1-800-491-6333 if you do not know your PHN.

Stock Transfers

Sale of drugs to other pharmacies, including emergency supplies of narcotics and controlled drugs, as well as drugs returned to wholesalers, must not be transmitted to PharmaNet. Do not use your “O-Med PHN” or assign a new PHN through PharmaNet for this purpose.  In these cases, the medication should be treated as "stock transfers" and recorded on the local system only. Medication transferred to a long-term care facility or to a group home as contingency medication or ward stock must also not be transmitted to PharmaNet. Once an order is received for a specific patient, that prescription must then be transmitted to PharmaNet using the patient's Personal Health Number (PHN). 

Pharmacists unsure of how to use the local stock transfer functionality or the O-Med procedure should contact their pharmacy software vendor.

Prescriptions for Pets

Pet prescriptions must be written by a veterinarian; pharmacies cannot accept prescriptions written by a pet owner’s doctor, or dispense prescriptions under the pharmacist’s ID.

A pet owner’s PHN must be used to record an animal prescription on PharmaNet, the veterinarian’s licence number must also be used as the practitioner ID, along with the appropriate practitioner reference ID code for the province the vet is registered in (e.g. V9 for BC)

Depending on your pharmacy’s local software, you can use the owner’s PHN to set up a separate animal patient record on your local pharmacy network and/or make a note on the script entry that the drug is for a pet. 

Do not create new PHNs for pets.