Healthcare Tips: How Automated Refills Work

The wave of the future is automated systems that take your order by telephone for getting a prescription filled at a pharmacy. Here are step-by-step instructions on how it works.

When calling in a prescription refill nowadays, you're unlikely to reach a real person on the other end. Instead, most pharmacies now have an automated prescription service. On the original prescription, or any refills, is the number of the pharmacy that filled it. When you dial this number, you will probably receive a message that thanks you for calling that particular pharmacy. Sometimes you'll be asked if you are a regular pharmacy customer. If so, you'll usually be asked to press "1", if not, you'll be asked to press "2". Next you'll be asked if you are calling for a refill. Again, you will be asked to press a certain number for "yes", a different number for "no". If you've answered "no" to the above questions, you'll probably be redirected to the pharmacy manager or other personnel. If you've answered "yes" to the above questions, you'll next be asked to enter the number of the prescription, located on the label of the bottle. Sometimes you'll be offered more options than this, like the option of pressing "0" to speak directly to the pharmacist, rather than going through the automated teller. This sometimes means a lengthy wait, if the pharmacist is currently busy.

The prescription number is how the computer keeps track of your medication, how many refills you still have and whether there are any conditions that the pharmacist needs to be aware of before filling the prescription. After entering the prescription number, you may be asked to verify it by pressing a certain number for "correct", another number for "incorrect". If it has been repeated by the automated service incorrectly and you press the number required for "incorrect", you could be asked to re-enter the number or you might then be redirected to the pharmacist. If the number the service has repeated is correct, you'll then be asked if you have additional prescriptions that need refilled. If so, you'll be required to go through the process of entering the prescription number and verifying it again. You'll do this for each prescription that you want filled, then you'll be asked to press a particular number when you're finished entering prescriptions.

After entering all of your prescription numbers, you'll usually be given a certain time that the refill will be ready, such as "tomorrow after 1:00 p.m.". The automated service will then say, "if this time is okay, press 1, if not, press 2". If you press the required number for indicating that this time is fine, you'll then be given a "thank you" at which point the automated service ends. If you've indicated that you need the prescription sooner, you will be told a different time, or the automated service will simply say, "thank you" and end.


If the automated service detects a problem, such as there not being any refills available on the prescription number you've entered, it will inform you that there is a problem, that your physician will be contacted, and that you can check back the following day to see if the physician has given permission for the medication to be refilled once again. Automated refill systems are the wave of the future, but there's no reason for them to be intimidating. Just listen to the recording, press the suggested buttons on your phone, and your prescription will be ready for you in no time.

© High Speed Ventures 2011