As a pharmacist, I am concerned about the number of individuals who present a prescription to the pharmacy and do not know what has been prescribed for them. Whether it is written or sent to the pharmacy electronically, no patient should leave the doctor’s office without knowledge of what has been prescribed.

The pharmacist has never had a class in interpretive writing. So, when a prescription is hard to decipher, as good as pharmacists are in interpretation of doctor’s writing, patient input can help save a call to the doctor for clarification. Extra calls add time to a person’s wait and with that comes the rush of anxiety and impatience that contribute to severe irritation at the pharmacy staff.

Here are six easy steps to assure a shorter wait time and undue irritation.

❶ If you are requesting a refill, request it at least three days prior to pickup. This provides time for the physician to be contacted, if needed, and for the pharmacy to obtain the medication if not in stock.

❷ For new prescriptions, have the prescription read back to you when you receive it (especially handwritten prescriptions). This helps in two ways: one, you will know the drug name and the directions for administration, and two, you can verify that the prescription has been interpreted correctly by the pharmacist when you pick it up.

❸ Before you leave the doctor’s office, look at the prescription. Know what has been written and make sure the doctor signs the prescription. Prescriptions without signatures are invalid and will require a call to the office for clarification or, on some prescriptions, a return trip to the office.

❹ Be sure you understand why your physician is prescribing the medication. As potent as many medications are, every patient should be informed as to the name of the drug, how it should be taken and potential side effects.

❺ When presenting your prescription to the pharmacy, make sure your profile information is updated, including address, phone number and any insurance changes. Correct insurance information is an easy 10-minute savings in wait time.

❻ When you receive a medication in those nice pharmacy sacks all neatly stacked and stapled, open the sack before leaving the pharmacy area. Look at each medication label. Make sure it is correct, including the patient name, drug and direction. Whenever possible, take time to receive counseling from the pharmacist.

Many times I have counseled patients who learned something new about the medication. The pharmacist should review each medication with you, including drug, direction, side effects, special storage requirements and additional safety information. This should confirm information explained by the physician. If there are any errors, they can be observed and corrected.

Remember, by law, the pharmacy may not take back any medication after it has been dispensed and has left the pharmacy.

Most pharmacists want to provide you with the best service available, which not only includes shorter wait times and decreased frustrations, but also improved health and welfare through a better understanding of drugs and how they will affect you individually. Paul D. Walbom, RPh M.P.A, is a pharmacist in Southern Utah. sgm  ~ ~