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Requesting A Refill

Posted on March 8th, 2018

Requesting A Refill


Everyday physician offices are flooded with phone calls from panicked patients in dire need of a prescription refill.  Those that make the request 7 days prior to running out, always avoid medication interruption. That is the requested timeline but typically it doesn’t always play out that way. What seems to be a simple request from a patient stand point, there is a lot more to it.  

It is a common scenario for a patient who has not been seen for a year or even two to request a refill on their GERD or heartburn medicine (as an example). When this occurs, we politely request that the patient be seen in the office first. The patient may not grasp any urgency as he is feeling well and only wants a refill on a medication that seems to be working fine.  However, the moment it is refilled, the provider in effect is accepting responsibility for this action and any resultant consequences. Here are some pitfalls with refilling a patient’s heartburn medicine who has been AWOL.

  • Does this specific drug still make sense?
  • Can the dosage be lowered?
  • Have any new symptoms developed that might require diagnostic investigation? Suppose the patient has been losing weight, for example? What if the condition has worsened and a new disease is responsible?
  • Is the patient experiencing side-effects from the medicine? Are there lab tests required? Extended use of some medications can infer other more serious conditions.
  • Could the requested medicine interfere with new drugs that the patient is now taking that our records do not show?

Refilling routine medicines may not be routine and should be done with care and caution. Patients who were not seen recently seen within a 6-month period will need to be seen to re-evaluated. What if the symptom is something new? Get the point?

So, when we ask you to stop in for a brief visit, it’s not because we delight in hassling you or are hungry for your co-pay. We’re trying to protect you and to keep you well. That is our goal and responsibility as your provider.


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