Medication Order Entry / Fill Process PTCB Test Prep

Pharmacy Prescriptions | Forms, Processing and Entry

Aug 14th, 2019
Pharmacy Prescriptions

What are Pharmacy Prescriptions?

The legal document that doctors must fill out when prescribing a drug, or more than one drug, is called a prescription (community) or, in the case of hospitals, it’s referred to as a medication order. Here in our review of pharmacy prescriptions, we discuss how they are written, processed and entered.

Prescriptions are not always written in standard, clear English. Often, pharmacy abbreviations are included. As part of your PTCB test prep, candidates are expected to know these abbreviations and how to interpret pharmacy prescriptions. If you have already studied prescription processing and entry, take a few moments to review our complete guide to pharmacy abbreviations.

Though prescriptions are most commonly written by physicians, they may also be written by other healthcare professionals, depending on the US state you reside in.

These healthcare professionals include:

  • Dentists
  • Veterinarians
  • Physician assistants
  • Certified nurse practitioners

Though these professions can write prescriptions, there are limitations on what medicines can appear on their pharmacy prescriptions.

Prescriptions do not need to be handwritten, either. They can also be sent via fax, electronic device or through phone. However, all written or faxed prescriptions must include the doctor’s signature.

In the case of calls, federal legislation states that nurse practitioners may phone-in the prescription on the physician’s behalf, though this must be communicated to the pharmacist and pharmacist only.

Details on Pharmacy Prescriptions

All pharmacy prescriptions included mandated details. For the PTCB exam, candidates are expected to know each of these details. For example, you may be presented with a question that tests your knowledge of what details should or should not be included with the prescription.

Each prescription should include the following details:

  • Name, address, and contact details of the prescriber
  • Name of the patient
  • Date the prescription was made
  • Inscription – name, dosage form, strength, and quantity of medicine
  • Sig – directions of use
  • Subscription – details to the pharmacist on whether refills are permitted, or whether a generic drug can be used in lieu of a trade name. If these details are not needed, DAW – or ‘dispense as written’ should be noted
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) number of the prescriber
  • Signature of the physician

Pharmacy technicians should know how to interpret prescription documents. Recall that identifying errors is one of the primary roles of the pharmacy technician. Interpreting prescriptions at early stage is one of those critical checkpoints.

How to Process a Prescription

To correctly process a prescription, pharmacy technicians need to forensically review the document for any possible errors. A systematic approach should be used to eliminate any possible sources of error.

In this regard, technicians should search for the following seven criteria:

  • Ensure that the prescription is valid by reviewing date, name, medication, and what quantity of medicine has been prescribed.
  • Verify that the name stated on the prescription matches the name given by the patient. For additional authentication, some pharmacies may ask for photo identification.
  • Date of birth should be recorded. This is necessary for insurance purposes as well as to distinguish between patients who happen to have the same name.
  • Phone number should be recorded. Patients may need to be contacted regarding their treatment.
  • Address should be recorded. This has two functions: first, to ensure that the pharmacy’s patient database is up to date. Second, an address is needed for controlled substances (II through to V) according to the Controlled Substances Act.
  • Discuss patient allergies. Discuss with the patient whether they have any allergies. This has two functions. First, to prevent any potential allergy with the medicine prescribed, but also to prevent any future allergies in any future prescriptions.
  • Record insurance details. Insurance details must be collected to ensure that patients do not pay full price of the medicine; they are recorded purely for billing purposes.

These remain the seven fundamental rules on how to process a prescription. Next, we discuss how pharmacy technicians should enter prescription details.

How to Enter Prescription Details

Pharmacy technicians are healthcare professionals one of whose functions is to identify any potential errors. There are two potential errors when entering prescription details: billing errors and patient profile errors.

Let’s review the primary steps technicians take to eliminate these risks:

  • Patient identification. When searching for a patient in the pharmacy’s database, it’s important that you correctly enter the patient’s surname, as well as the first letter of their first name. A list of names appears, and you should choose the correct name and verify that name with the patient’s date of birth.
  • Verify insurance details. This is done when the patient presents their new insurance card.
  • Prescriber identification. In the same manner that technicians search for the patient, the same process should be followed for identifying the prescriber. An insurance audit may be performed, or an oversight on behalf of the pharmacist, if the incorrect provider is listed.
  • Drug to be dispensed. This can be achieved by entering the drug name or entering the National Drug Care (NDC) number, which is an 11-digit number with the following sequence: 28754-2500-45. The first 5-digits refer to the drug manufacturer; the next 4-digits refer to drug/strength; whilst the last 2-digits refer to package size.
  • Quantity dispensed. Due to insurance limitations, the quantity may have to be adjusted. For example, most insurance companies cover quantities up to 30-days-worth of medicine, and not more.
  • Directions for use. This is important because if the pharmacy technician incorrectly interprets the prescription, and the pharmacist also misses the mistake, the patient may be prescribed a harmful dose of the medicine.
  • Daily supply. If the quantity of drug is specified as 30 tablets and the directions for use state BID (twice daily), the daily dose is 2 tablets per day.
  • Refills. Number of refills must be stated and be in accordance with the law. For example: controlled drugs (III through to V) are permitted to have up to 5 refills, with the prescription valid for 6 months only. Controlled drugs II are not permitted to have refills. Non-controlled drugs may have up to 11 refills and the prescription is valid for 1-year from the date it was written.
  • Expiration date. Pharmacy technicians must enter a valid expiration date from the stock bottle. An incorrectly entered expiry date could result in a patient taking expired medicines. In the case of the antibacterial drugs, tetracyclines, this can result in Fanconi syndrome.
  • Patient insurance. The final step through which the patient’s insurance is processed to ensure that the medicine can be dispensed through that pharmacy.

When reviewing these steps, always consider the potential for error.

If these steps were rushed, for example, it is easily conceivable to see how errors can emerge. Pharmacy technicians must be responsible and handle each of these tasks with due diligence to prevent any possible patient errors.

Share Article to:

PTCB Test Prep Author


Elaine Walker

Elaine joined PTCB Test Prep in 2017, currently serving as the lead product development manager overseeing both course development and quality improvement. Mrs. Walker is a graduate of California State University and has worked as a pharmacy technician for over twenty years – with particular interests in pediatric pharmacy, extemporaneous compounding, and hospital pharmacy. Over the past 8-years, she has helped prepare thousands of students for the PTCB examination.