Jonathan Baran
Author: Jonathan Baran | Date February 27, 2019

3 Reasons You’re Still Receiving Faxed Refill Requests & How You Can Reduce Them

Healthcare providers often tell us they receive a lot of refill requests via fax even though they’re using an e-Prescribing solution such as Surescripts. This is not only frustrating to the provider, but can impact staff efficiency and response times for patients.


There are a number of reasons clinics may still be receiving faxed refill requests. This article explains the three most common causes and what you can do to reduce the number of faxes received from pharmacies. 

Reason #1: Your Surescripts Provider Directory doesn’t have updated provider information

When a patient requests a refill on a medication, the Surescripts network electronically routes the request to the correct provider. When there are hundreds of thousands of providers on the network, even the smallest differences could dramatically change where a request is sent. It’s not uncommon for two different providers to have the same name, a provider to have two office locations, or for a provider to use two different names (i.e. Dr. Jonathan Smith and Dr. Jon Smith).


Each of these nuances can create challenges in delivering a refill request to the appropriate provider. The Surescripts Provider Directory keeps this important information up-to-date to ensure the refill request reaches their intended destination. The Provider Directory contains records of the following:


  • First and Last Name of a Provider

  • Provider’s National Provider Identifier (NPI)

  • Provider’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Registration Number

  • Provider’s Address, City, State, and Zip

  • Provider’s Phone and Fax Number


While NPI and DEA numbers are regularly used to identify providers, they are insufficient to route refill requests. There can be differences between individual and organizational NPIs and multiple DEA numbers for the same provider. To address this, Surescripts assigns a unique Surescripts Provider Identifier (SPI) to each provider which determines how to route their refill requests based on the above directory fields.


When the sending pharmacy cannot uniquely identify the correct provider from the Surescripts Provider Directory the refill request will be sent via fax. This could be for a number of reasons, such as new providers not getting added to the directory, changes in provider information, or the provider directory never being set up correctly.


How do I update the Surescripts Directory with new information?

Surescripts recommends that you establish regular organizational processes for reviewing and updating your Surescript Provider Directory. This is where you will need to call your IT team for assistance. Depending on your electronic medical record, there are different methods for updating the Directory.


If you are using Epic, Surescripts has published a handy guide for updating the Surescript Provider Directory. You can access that guide here.

Reason #2: Your refill request turnaround time is greater than 24 hours

Another common reason that you maybe receiving faxed refill requests is if your turnaround time on a request is longer than 24 hours. Turnaround time is defined as the time it takes for a refill to be sent back to the pharmacy after receiving the original request. When a request is sent and not acted upon within 24 hours, the pharmacy or Surescripts network may assume the original request was never received, and thus, attempt to deliver again via fax.  A fax also helps serve a back up to ensure patients don't have a lapse in medication coverage. While these duplicate requests can cause extra work, they help ensure the continuity of your patients' care plans.


How do I get my turnaround time less than 24 hours?

In order to regularly get your refill request turnaround time less than 24 hours most organizations will establish refill request delegation to enable non-providers to handle requests in a timely manner based on standardized protocols and workflows.

Find out other refill metrics you should be measuring in our "Introduction to Prescription Refills

Intro-to-Refills-eBook-CTA

Reason #3: The sending pharmacy is not on the Surescripts network

You may also receive faxed refill requests if the sending pharmacy is not on the Surescripts network. This is not very common because all of the major retail pharmacies (CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, etc.) are on the network. The primary exception is small independent pharmacies, particularly in rural regions, who may not be on the Surescripts network. If this is the case, they likely rely on faxes to deliver refill requests.


When you take the steps necessary to reduce your faxed refill volume, you not only achieve greater organizational efficiency, you also improve the patient experience through quicker response times. You’ll never be able to completely eliminate faxed refill requests; even the highest performing organizations still receive 10-20% of refill requests via fax. While you can’t do much about pharmacies that aren’t on the network, by ensuring that your provider directory is up to date and reducing the refill turn around time, you can significantly reduce your fax volume.


How else have you reduced faxed refill requests at your organization? Please share your tips and ideas in the comments section below!

Jonathan Baran

Written By: Jonathan Baran on February 27, 2019

Jonathan is the CEO and Co-Founder of healthfinch. He has a background in biomedical engineering and is passionate about advancing technology to help reduce the rising concern of provider burnout.

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