JAPhA study: Calling physician’s office better than faxing for clarifying prescriptions

New e-prescriptions require clarification more than faxed, written prescriptions

Pharmacists who need clarification on prescriptions should pick up the phone and call the physician’s office instead of sending a fax, according to a study published in the April-May 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association (JAPhA). However, how fast the issue is resolved depends on what the issue is, with requests for prior authorization taking the most time to square away.

In the study, researchers characterized the type and extent of communications between five independent community pharmacies in Connecticut with local physician offices. They found that person-to-person telephone contacts had an 80% resolution rate compared with a 55% resolution rate for faxing.

New prescriptions accounted for 74% of the communications with physicians’ offices compared with 26% for refills. Among new prescriptions, those sent through e-prescribing systems required clarification four times as often as those that were faxed and twice as often as those that were written. For all prescriptions, the top reason for contacting the physician’s office was prior authorization, followed by missing prescription information, clarification of prescription information, and excessive or insufficient dose or duration. The time it took to resolve an issue ranged from 6 minutes for missing information to more than 14 days for more complex issues like prior authorization.

The researchers concluded: “Sending a fax may be easier and quicker to initiate, but person-to-person communication has a higher resolution rate and can improve the efficiency in resolving prescription clarifications with physician office communications.” They also state their findings are “relevant to ongoing improvements in e-prescribing software interfaces to minimize the need for clarifications with prescribers’ offices.”