Using automated reminders to prevent problems with prescription orders

01Feb11

Last weekend, I went through an almost comical series of steps to refill a prescription:

– Step 1: Show up at the pharmacy to pick up the prescription — only to have the pharmacist tell me there are no refills left.

– Step 2: Go home, locate the new prescription slip that I squirreled away after a doctor visit, and bring it to the pharmacy. However, the pharmacist says there’s a very long wait, and encourages me to come back in a few hours to pick it up.

– Step 3: Return to the pharmacy and successfully pick up the prescription.

In total, this adventure took at least an hour longer than it should have. And it made me wonder: if the store already has an automated reminder system to call you when a prescription is ready, why can’t the same system let you know about problems with your order?

Right now, I imagine that the store relies on the pharmacists to flag orders that are stuck in pending status, and expects them to make individual calls to the customers about those issues. However, the most common problems — such as a prescription that is about to run out and needs to be renewed with a new paper slip or a call to the doctor — could easily be conveyed with an automated reminder. Ideally, such reminders would be delivered a week or two before the normal refill date, so that the customer can take the appropriate action to prevent any interruption in the prescription.

By using an automated reminder system to advise customers of problems in advance, a higher percentage of prescription orders should be fillable on the normal refill date. Aside from preventing interruptions to the pharmacy’s revenue stream, this approach means less hassle and fewer wasted trips for customers, thus improving their perception of the pharmacy as a whole.



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