Physicians Practice Pearls: Prescribe Wisely

May 1, 2006

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Each day, your practice is bombarded with calls from physicians and patients making prescription requests. The amount of time and energy your staff spends responding to those requests is not insignificant. Staff members tied up with making and returning phone calls means less time spent managing patient flow. Here are some time-saving prescription management tips:

  • Transmit your prescriptions electronically. Utilize electronic prescription-writing software to transmit prescriptions directly to pharmacies. Although this may not save you time when you first prescribe a medication to a patient, this method will streamline future prescriptions by enabling you to automatically recall past prescribing information. And e-prescribing automatically allows you to check for drug interactions and formulary compliance. If e-prescribing is too expensive for your practice, try faxing your prescriptions to pharmacies. Requests will be written down, allowing you to easily file or scan them into patient charts. In addition to letting you batch your requests, faxing helps your staff avoid having to wade through pharmacy phone systems.

  • Write legibly. If you fax a prescription or deliver it manually, review the handwriting to determine legibility. If the prescription is illegible, pharmacists will be forced to contact your practice for clarification.

  • Send refills directly to the pharmacy. Remind your patients that a refill inherently means that the medication is already approved, and is available by calling the pharmacy. Often, patients confused about refill requests continue to contact their doctors’ offices for repeat medications.

  • Renew prescriptions during patient encounters. Review all medications during patient visits to determine if renewals are due. If you know that you will not see a given patient for six months and his hypertension medication will run out in four months, either move up his next appointment or extend his medication for another two months.

  • Carefully time follow-up visits. For example, you give a patient a three-month supply of a medication and ask her to follow up with you in three months. Your receptionist then schedules the patient’s next appointment in three months and three days. Three days before that appointment, the patient will likely be on the phone requesting a refill. Think ahead and give patients an extra week’s worth of medication to avoid such situations.

  • Establish efficient renewal protocols. If you proactively manage your patients’ follow-up appointments, your practice may decide to no longer renew medications without seeing a patient. If you want to renew prescriptions over the phone, create written guidelines for phone renewals, to include, if appropriate, what you authorize your nurse to prescribe.

Having documented medication renewals is critical, as is oversight of your practice’s prescription process. Implementing just one of these practices will lighten your staff’s burden and allow them to focus more on patient care.

Elizabeth Woodcock, MBA, CPC, is a professional speaker and consultant specializing in practice management. Elizabeth is a Fellow in the American College of Medical Practice Executives and is a Certified Professional Coder. She can be reached at elizabeth@elizabethwoodcock.com or via editor@physicianspractice.com. Learn more about Elizabeth at www.elizabethwoodcock.com.

This article originally appeared in the May 2006 issue of Physicians Practice.