Phone-in Rx’s for Dummies

Dear Staff of Doctors Offices Everywhere,

There is an obvious lack of common knowledge in Doctors office as to the “proper” way to phone in an Rx.  So I have taken upon myself to give you all a little guideline to hang up in your office so you and/or your office staff don’t become a target of an angry rant on this site.  Consider it my gift to you.

The Angry Pharmacist Guide to Phone In Prescriptions
The Angry Pharmacist (c) 2009

  1. Before you pick up the phone, you must ask yourself a few simple questions:
    1. Do I speak LOUD and CLEAR English and do not mumble (you might need to ask a few office people their opinion of this)?
    2. Do I have the patients full name and date of birth?
    3. Can I read what the doctor has written?
    4. Do I know MY NAME and THE DOCTORS NAME?
    5. If I read what the doctor has written (see 1.3) , can I make out exactly what drug it is, what strength it is, how often is it to be taken.  Even if you have no idea what the drug is, you should be able to use your high-school education to deduce (that’s fancy-talk for figure out) how to take the drug.  If you are unable to determine this, consult the doctor or find someone in the office who can.
    6. Try to sound out the drug name.  Ask someone how to say it if you are confused.  Most drugs names sound similar, so if you are hopelessly confused just be prepared to spell it.
    7. Is there anything here that I might get confused about if asked questions.  Such as a possible 0 looking like an 8 or a 6, or why someone would need #400 Norco with 10 refills.  Giving Ambien (that everyone knows is for sleep) twice daily is obviously wrong as well.
  2. Having your pre-NewRx checklist, you are ready to call:
    1. Double check with the patient as to the pharmacy of choice, and also double check to see that you are calling the correct pharmacy.  In most phone books, the name of the pharmacy is on the LEFT and their number is on the RIGHT.  Use a piece of paper to keep a straight line if you are cross eyed and can’t seem to follow from LEFT to RIGHT.
    2. If you are calling a chain or any pharmacy with an automated system, go to the menu entry for a new Rx.
    3. If you are calling an independent and a LIVE PERSON answers the phone, you are most likely talking with a clerk who CANNOT TAKE YOUR NEW PRESCRIPTION.  Kindly ask to speak with a Pharmacist and state that you have a new prescription to call in.
    4. If you call it in to the wrong pharmacy, CALL THE WRONG PHARMACY BACK AND CANCEL THE PRESCRIPTION!  DO NOT CALL THE CORRECT PHARMACY UNTIL THIS IS DONE!  What happens is the wrong pharmacy processes it, and blocks the correct pharmacy from processing it through the insurance.  We would rather have you CALL and CANCEL THE RX vs having to deal with having another pharmacy return-to-stock and backing the prescription out.
  3. Speaking with the pharmacist:
    1. When the pharmacist answers, speak LOUD and CLEAR.  There is a lot of background noise in a pharmacy and softly mumbling will get your ass hung-up on.
    2. Tell them immediately what YOUR name is and WHERE YOU ARE CALLING FROM.  Nothing pisses off pharmacists more than when someone is giving a new Rx and they have no idea where they are calling from (hey, they could be the patient calling in a phony).
    3. Say the patients name in a way that we can understand.  You may be proud of your Mexican accent and the way you say Mexican names, but the non-Mexican pharmacist on the other end of the phone has no idea how to spell your ooplahs, n-yays and tongue-rolls.  Most pharmacists will want you to spell the name anyways due to the outrageous and stupid names people are making up for their kids now-days.  Say it like a white-boy and you should be safe.
    4. Immediately give the date-of-birth.  We shouldn’t have to ask for it because you should give it automatically.  You should already know where it is and don’t need to hunt/change screens for it.
    5. Give the first drug, strength, and directions.  Speak SLOW, AND CLEAR.  You can say it a whole lot faster than most of us can write it.  Calling in an Rx is not a race.  If you cannot pronounce the drug, just straight out say “I’m spelling this for you”. 
    6. If at any time you use the phrase “This looks like…” or “I think this is…”, you should re-read the section about preparing for the call in, and contemplate having somebody else call in Rx’s who can actually read and follow directions.
    7. When finished with the last drug, say “That’s all”.  This is not the time for awkward silence as the pharmacist patiently awaits another drug and you just sit silently waiting for the pharmacist to magically read your mind.
    8. Be prepared to give your name again, since we forgot your name a long time ago, and feel free to ask the pharmacist his name if you have to record that down.
    9. If the pharmacist has any questions (or the drug isn’t covered) be prepared to write down what /is/ covered and give the pharmacist a call right back.  We don’t expect you to give us an answer right away, and honestly we’d rather get a call/fax back than sit on your shitty hold music while you waddle your ass down the hall and ask the doctor in slow motion.

Following this guide will provide many happy memories with dealing with hard-working and stressed out Pharmacists.


The Angry Pharmacist

Over $1/min to write down numbers

I don’t mind if a patient calls up and has a question (except if its when their vicodin is due).  I will gladly put whatever I’m doing on hold to answer a legitimate honest question, no matter how trivial or stupid it is.  I’m sure any pharmacist (except those mail order twats) would do the same thing.

However I do mind when patients want to talk to me to call in their refill numbers.  Sure, take up the time of the most knowledgeable and highest paid employee in the pharmacy so you can have your numbers written down.  God this annoys the living piss out of me.

Dear public.  Little do you know that calling in your refill numbers to the pharmacist is the QUICKEST way to not get your shit filled.  You see, every pharmacy has a system.  The clerks take the numbers and put the little tags into some sort of delivery system to the pharmacists and techs in the back.  We process the prescriptions, and hand the completed product back up front to the clerks for bagging.  Calling in numbers directly to the pharmacy screws that system up.  Plus with all the chaos that takes places behind the counter of any well-running pharmacy I’ll bet you any money that the tag that the pharmacist wrote your numbers on gets lost somewhere.  Not to mention that throwing in anything that deviates from a pharmacy’s filling system is just asking for errors and mistakes to be made.

Plus, when a pain-in-the-ass patient calls a pharmacist up and says “I need all my regular medications”; 30 seconds later a doctors office calls in a new prescription.  Guess what happened to “All of your regular medications” request that you so cunningly bypassed the clerks with?  Yup, forgotten.  Sure you may get mad, but when asked the question “Why did you not give it to the clerks?” you just stare at me with a blank look.

Aside from the reasons above, the non-candy-coated answer is that we’re too damn busy and too damn important to write down your numbers or hear you stumble through drug names.  We have a whole lot better things to do with the $1/min most pharmacists cost their employer than to do what a $8.50/hr employee can do.

So whats a pharmacist to do when a PITA patient calls them just for refills?

  • “Oh, hold on, let me get a clerk to get those numbers down for you
  • “Hold on a second, doctor on the other line”  Then wait 10 min to say “You know, a clerk can get those down a whole lot faster than I can”
  • Hang up on them.
  • Transfer them to Walgreens to bug their pharmacists.