a woman on the phone and a pharmacy with an out of order sign on it

When the Pharmacy's Phone is Broken...and What to Do About It

Last updated: January 2022

Here's a new one: The pharmacy's phone was broken.

Like, I dialed the number multiple times and my iPhone just went beep-beep and said USER BUSY.

I don't actually need to call the pharmacy that often. The online refill system generally serves me beyond well. Except sometimes the humans are needed to outsmart the computers, as was the situation yesterday. Sometimes it's just necessary to discuss an asthma prescription with the pharmacist, either to request a refill or ask a question.

Pharmacy phone broken, asthma prescriptions needed

Back in October, my new family doctor, Dr. Awesomesauce, sent about 6 months of most of my prescriptions to my pharmacy. I still have the tail-end of July refills from my former family doctor. So what happened was one prescription was to dispense 3 boxes of pills but there was only a partial quantity remaining, meaning I could not refill online due to the partial quantity. However, I also couldn't refill the NEW one because the old one wasn't depleted yet. No problem, I just make a call and they sort it out and we're set.

Well, you see where this is going, don't you?

I started at 11:15 AM and called the pharmacy about 5 times between then and 11:45 AM. At 11:40, I knew I could not keep getting distracted from my workday by calling the pharmacy, and listening to the busy signal, so I pulled up my old, trusty friend...
The website where you can send faxes to people.

I sent the following fax:
"Hello, Pharmacy Team! Not sure if you are super busy or if the phone is experiencing technical issues but I keep getting a user busy when I dial for about 30 minutes now (11:15-11:45 AM). I have requested some refills online and also need Rx number ####### – refilled x 3 boxes as well. There is a partial quantity remaining with a linked Rx available so I cannot do it online. If possible I would like to pick up early in the day tomorrow, January 7. Thank you for your help! If you can please give me a call at ###-###-#### when this is received about when the prescriptions will be ready for pickup, I would appreciate it! Thank you for your time, have a lovely day!
Kerri MacKay [insert date of birth]"

Then I went on with my day. Around 5:30 PM, I picked up the phone as I wrapped up work... just to see if the pharmacy phone was working again.

Nope. Beep-beep. USER BUSY.

Okay then.

So if the phone was still not working, we can also presume they cannot call me to tell me it's ready either. Pulled up my online pharmacy record and... hey, look at that, everything is READY FOR PICKUP. They got my fax! It worked!

Credit where due...to the fax machine

I hate the fax machine with a passion. It is a technology that no longer needs to have a place in our world in the vast majority of places. I do not believe in its security above email as was the old-time-y claim. This is not 30 years ago. We can do better.

But, I have to give credit because the medical world is so antiquated and backward still, really now just getting up to speed with ePrescribing and stuff, this has proven to, time and time again, be a good resource to me as a patient trying to navigate the system, to work in their constraints and send a fax when I can't get through by phone--whether due to the busyness of office staff/phones, a phone glitch, or just plain remembering something when the office is not open and wanting to get it dealt with on my timeline.

But could I just send an email or a secure message online?
Yes. Theoretically, anyway. And I'd much rather do that, but I can't.

Following through on the details

By the way, I did get a call from my favorite pharmacist, Will, that they'd got my request and it was ready later in the evening. I failed to ask if the phones had not been operational, which I immediately regretted when I returned to Dia on the other line. When my mom stopped in to pick it up for me today, she did inquire, and they were indeed having phone issues yesterday, which I am sure we all fully expected.

But, hey, at least the fax worked. I'm starting to lose count of how many times this has happened! Though, I'm pretty sure this is not a method I'll need to use much with my new family doctor's office. Though, I did make a note of their fax number when it came on a report...just in case!

Has this happened to you? Have you ever experienced your pharmacy phone lines being broken when you needed to access information about an asthma prescription, or request a refill? Share your story in the comments below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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