When Patients Need a Prescription Renewed, the Waiting Is the Hardest Part

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More Than a Quarter of Patients Ran Out of Medication Waiting for a Renewal, and Nearly a Quarter Considered Changing Doctors Due to Delays, Survey Finds

Patients waiting for prescription renewals often face challenges and delays that can impact their health, according to a new survey by health technology pioneer DrFirst.

When prescriptions are out of refills or have expired, the doctor needs to authorize a renewal, which is essentially a new prescription for the medication. Even though pharmacies often send an electronic renewal request to the doctor on behalf of patients, the process can take longer than expected, causing patients to worry about running out of needed medications.

“What ought to be a simple, straightforward electronic process is often complicated by interoperability issues,” said Colin Banas, MD, MHA, chief medical officer for DrFirst. “The systems used by the doctor and the pharmacy don’t speak the same language, so vital prescription information could be missing or hard to find, slowing everything down and forcing the doctor to check the renewal request line by line, comparing it to the original prescription. This increases the time for doctors to approve renewal requests and can be harmful and frustrating for patients who run out of medicine while waiting for their prescriptions to be renewed.”

The survey of 400 consumers explores their experiences when getting prescriptions renewed in the last 12 months. Respondents say they have:

  • Been concerned about the health ramifications of running out of their medication (44%)
  • Run out of medication while waiting for the renewal (27%)
  • Changed doctors or considered doing so because of delays in prescription renewals (24%)
  • Contacted the pharmacy or doctor more than once to get their prescription renewed (21%)
  • Waited longer than expected for their prescription to be renewed (20%)

“People with chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, need to take their medications every day,” said Banas. “Delays with getting their prescriptions renewed do not need to happen. That is one reason DrFirst has introduced SmartRenewal, closing data gaps so it’s faster and safer for doctors to review and approve electronic renewal requests.”

SmartRenewal eliminates many issues contributing to delays in approving prescription renewal requests. Using DrFirst’s patented AI technology, it automates the transcription of medication instructions (known as “sigs”) into the terminology used by the doctors’ electronic health record (EHR) systems, significantly cutting down on the manual clicks and keystrokes that can lead to medication errors and provider burnout.