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What Every Medical Assistant Should Understand about a Prescription Order 


prescription pad exampleattention You should know and understand the following:

  • The date and patient information, which consists of the name of the party for whom it is designed and the address, usually occupies the upper part of the prescription. Sometimes age or weight is also added, though rarely.

  • The instruction, "take as directed" is not satisfactory and should be avoided. The directions to the patient should include a reminder of the intended purpose of the medication by including such phrases as "for pain," "for relief of headache," or "to relieve itching".

  • And if the patient is to receive a brand name medication, rather then generic, the physician enters NO SUBSTITUTIONS at the end of the prescription.
  • If there are no refills to be dispensed, it is advisable not to enter the number 0, because it can be altered by adding numbers before the zero, thus making it a 10 to receive ten refills (or more!). Always write out the word None, or No Refills!!!

  • The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration number system was implemented as a way to successfully track controlled substances from the time they are manufactured until the time they are dispensed to the patient.

  • The DEA opposes use of the DEA number for other than its intended purpose, which is tracking controlled substances, and strongly opposes insurance company practice of requiring that a DEA number be placed on prescriptions for non-controlled substances.

  • Not all medications require prescriptions. There are certain medications on the market that can be purchased over the counter, thus their name over-the-counter drugs (OTC).

  • Learn the units of quantities and apothecary symbols written on prescriptions in the apothecary's system which can easily be misread or misunderstood.

  • In order to write, read, and understand prescriptions, the medical assistant must also understand Roman numerals.

  • Everybody who writes or dispenses prescriptions should be familiar with the List of Error Prone Abbreviations, Symbols, and Dose Designations (PDF format!) published by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.

       push pin  Do a quick and simple prescription parts labeling exercise!

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