Hang up on phone-ins

Your article is right on the mark [Dr. Hook, February 3: "Phone-a-pill: Get your prescriptions in person"]. Charlottesville area doctors are playing with fire when they phone in new or refill prescriptions.

I've been practicing pharmacy in this town for over two years. What probably started as a convenience to prescribers is now a runaway train heading to disaster.

Nurse interpretation is just the beginning of potential problems. Add in dialect, pronunciation, accent, etc., and the problem escalates. Then there's the problem of pressure. I work at a particularly busy pharmacy. Phoned-in prescriptions now routinely exceed 100 per day (and more than 150 on Mondays). That means I'm on the phone for up to four hours a day. Do you think the rest of my customers are getting my full attention?

Prescription orders left on voicemail machines are even more dangerous. Some prescriptions are called-in in less than 20 seconds. How safe is that? One doctor from UVA actually rattled off 11 prescription orders in less than one minute!

But there's an easy solution. If only the prescribers would fax their written prescriptions to us, prescription dispensing would become much safer. Just like prescriptions that are brought in to the pharmacy, faxed prescriptions are easier to interpret, not hindered by office and pharmacy distractions, and guaranteed to take less telephone time for everyone involved. Unfortunately most prescriber offices shun the fax machine. Here are some of the excuses I get when I suggest faxing:

* Our docs don't write the prescription (what?)

* We just call in the refills during the day– the doc signs them at night (what?)

* It takes too long to fax (not true)

* Patients want it that way (they also want the right prescription)

Dr. Hong, your article is right on the mark. How can we convince the rest of the prescribers in Charlottesville?

Paul R. Bergeron II, R.Ph.
Lake Monticello