6 ways to ensure your prescription is refilled on time

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We’re all busy with commitments in our lives and sometimes we forget to refill our prescriptions until the last minute. Then it’s a mad dash rush to get to the pharmacy before it closes and an impatient wait to get back to the other ten thousand things we need to complete. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some way to make this process easier? Here are 6 ways to do just that.

Take advantage of e-scripts

“E-scripts” are prescriptions your healthcare provider can send electronically to your pharmacy. They’re generally a faster, more efficient method of delivery because your doctor can submit the e-script at the end of your appointment before your arrival at the pharmacy.

Depending on how busy the pharmacy is and whether there are any clarifications needed on the e-script, it’s possible for your prescription to be ready when you get there. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, among other healthcare entities, have adopted standards to encourage widespread use of e-scribing.

Be sure to ask if your provider is set up to prescribe via e-scripts at your next visit.

Verify pharmacy information and e-script receipt


Sometimes you may get to your pharmacy only to find they never received an e-script from your prescriber. From my personal experience, it’s usually one of two cases. The doctor’s office has an old pharmacy’s information incorrectly listed as current or they accidentally choose the wrong pharmacy.

What you can do to prevent these situations is double check your pharmacy information with your provider before they send any e-scripts. You can also give a quick call ahead to the pharmacy to confirm they received your e-script, and potentially troubleshoot in advance.

Enroll in automatic refills

Many retail pharmacies, especially major chains like CVS/Pharmacy and Walgreens, provide convenience tools such as automatic refills programs. Pharmacies will refill your maintenance medications when you’re about to run out and contact you when the new fill is ready to be picked up. If you’re out of refills, some pharmacies may even contact your doctor to authorize additional refills; all without you having to do a thing.

Besides the convenience factor, automatic refill programs help ensure you’ll never run out of your medication because you forgot to keep track of your medication supply. So make sure to use these programs as much as you can – it’s a win-win situation.

Know your prescriber’s refill policies

While automatic refill programs are a huge timesaver, at times they won’t work. In these cases, it’s because the prescriber’s office has strict refill request policies. Sometimes they will only respond to a refill request if the patient contacts them directly.

So, no matter how often the pharmacy contacts the office or how many automatic refill programs you’re enrolled in, you will always have difficulty getting refills authorized. The best way to avoid this situation is to know which doctor’s offices require you to personally follow up on refill requests.

Notify your pharmacy of changes

Sometimes your doctor may adjust your medication or dosage and you have been taking another medication/dose that’s being automatically refilled. Unfortunately, if your pharmacy is filling based on outdated information, mix ups may occur.

The best way to avoid this situation is to communicate clearly with your pharmacy about what’s going on, especially if you’re going through a period of multiple medication/dose changes. You can discuss your options with your pharmacy staff, but you may need to temporarily suspend automatic refills.

Use other pharmacy convenience tools

Not all medications qualify for automatic refills – usually only medications taken on a daily basis for chronic illnesses – so it’s important to plan ahead for the other medications you take on a fairly regular basis. Most chain retail pharmacies offer other convenience tools to help you refill your prescriptions, such as automated phone systems and websites to submit refills.

The beauty of these tools is your ability to schedule in advance what time you want to pick up your refill, then simply walk in and pick it up with no muss or fuss.

About the Author

Julie Kaplan, Pharm. D.
Julie Kaplan is a licensed pharmacist in Virginia and the District of Columbia. She received a Bachelor’s of Arts in English from The College of William and Mary and a Doctor of Pharmacy from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has experience in patient communication from working as a retail pharmacist.