Reading a doctor’s handwritten prescription can feel like trying to understand a foreign language. Between confusing pharmacy abbreviations, complicated medical names and other bits of information, it’s natural for your eyes to glaze over after just a few seconds. Whether you’re a prospective pharmacy technologystudent looking to better understand the prescription process or a consumer trying to decode what your doctor writes on your prescription, this educational guide easily breaks down how prescriptions work.


Despite their confusing nature, medication labels contain important information about a prescription, so it’s necessary to have at least a fundamental grasp on what it all means. Remember, you can always ask your pharmacist or pharmacy technician to clarify anything you don’t understand.

Who Can Write Prescriptions?

Both federal and local laws give a wide range of different medical professionals the ability to write prescriptions. Physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice registered nurses, nurse practitioners, anesthetists, certified nurse midwives and clinical nurse specialists currently have the power to do so in all fifty states. In some states, clinical pharmacists can write prescriptions, as long as it is in collaboration with a physician or drug formulary.

Why Is It Important To Know My Prescription?

Understanding exactly what your prescription means is invaluable for a few different reasons. For starters, being clear on which medications you should take and which you should avoid can help you evade adverse drug reactions, which can occur when taking multiple medications. There are two million serious adverse drug reactions (also called ADRs) per year, which results in over 100,000 deaths. 82% of American adults take at least one medication, and 29% of all patients in the United States take more than five medications at a time. To put this into perspective, the rate of an ADR increases exponentially when patients take more than four medications.

Common adverse drug reactions caused by drug interactions

  • Aspirin and Warfarin, when taken together, increase your risk of bleeding.
  • Lithium and Diuretics can alter the levels of sodium in your kidneys.
  • Oral contraceptives and rifampin, an antibiotic, can cause contraceptives to be less effective when taken at the same time.

What Goes Into A Prescription?

A standard medical prescription usually includes a few key pieces of information like the name of the drug, the strength and the recommended dosage. It will also include specific directions for how you should use it, the total quantity of the medication that is being prescribed and the number of authorized refills that you have before the prescription will need to be renewed.

What Do Those Prescription Abbreviations Mean?

The pharmaceutical abbreviations that physicians use are often based on a combination of Latin and prescription shorthand, designed to get important information across as quickly as possible, to save space and to make it more difficult for a patient to alter a prescription on their own. These medication abbreviations are broken down into a few different categories:

Medical Abbreviations That Indicate When To Take Your Medication:

  • AC, from the Latin 1 “ante cibum,” means “take before a meal.”
  • HS, from the Latin “hora somni,” means “take at bedtime.”
  • PC, from the Latin “post cibum,” means “take after a meal.”

Medical Abbreviations That Describe How To Use Your Medication:

  • PO, from the Latin “per os,” or “by mouth,” means that medication should be taken orally.
  • AD, from the Latin “auris dexter,” or “right ear,” means that your medication should be taken via your right ear.
  • AS, from the Latin “auris sinister,” or “left ear,” means that your medication should be taken via your left year.
  • AU, from the Latin “auris utro” or “each ear,” denotes medication meant to be taken in both ears.
  • OD, from the Latin “oculus dexter,” or “right eye,” and OS, from the Latin “oculus sinister,” or “left eye,” mean that medication is for your right eye or left eye, respectively.
  • SUBQ indicates that medication should be taken subcutaneously.
  • SUP means that medication is a suppository.

Medical Abbreviations That Inform How Often to Take Your Medication:

  • BID, from the Latin “bis in die,” means that the medication should be taken “twice a day.”
  • PRN, from the Latin “pro re nata,” means that the medication should be taken “as needed.”
  • Q, from the Latin “quaque,” means “every,” with medical abbreviations like QHR meaning every hour, Q4HR meaning every four hours, etc.

Dosage Information:

  • i, ii, iii and iiii medical abbreviations indicate dose size and equate to 1, 2, 3 and 4.

What About Generic Drugs?

According to the Food and Drug Administration, a generic drug is one that is comparable to a brand name medication in form, strength, route of administration, quality and more. Generic drugs are often 80 to 85% less expensive than their brand name counterparts. As a result, 80% of all prescriptions filled in the United States are for these generic medications.

Fascinated by this topic? Consider a career as a Pharmacy Technician

If you’re interested in learning more about pharmacology, or have a true passion for medicine and have the goal of moving towards it as a profession, consider pharmacy technician certification training at Carrington College. It’s an education program that combines lectures and hands-on instruction in laboratory settings that are designed to mimic real-world environments as closely as possible. It’s an ideal way to not only educate yourself, but to make sure that you’re ready to help people every day in a wide range of different healthcare settings—including helping people decode those pharmacy technician abbreviations when they come to pick up their medicine at the pharmacy.

7 ways to save cash on prescription drugs

7 ways to save cash on prescription drugs

The prescription retinoid that my dermatologist suggested sounded like a great idea. It was a topical vitamin A-based cream, which has been shown to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Now that I’m a middle ager, I thought I’d give it a try. Then I got to the drugstore, and found that the little tube had a huge price: $371! I didn’t want to shell out that much for a mere face cream, so I didn’t fill the prescription.

But my case was only skin-deep. What about people who can’t — or don’t want to — pay for prescription medications to treat chronic or serious illness? “It’s a real problem. Medications only work if people take them, and you can’t take them if you can’t afford them,” says Dr. Joshua Gagne, a pharmacist and epidemiologist with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

According to a National Center for Health Statistics survey, about 8% of adults in the United States don’t take prescribed medications because they can’t afford them.

Even if cost is not affecting your medication regimen, the following ideas may save you some money.

  1. Try generics. Generic drugs have the same active ingredients as brand-name medications, but generics are substantially less expensive. For example, the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor retails for about $390 for a 30-day supply. The generic version, atorvastatin, is about $10 for a 30-day supply. Always ask your doctor if a generic is available. “If a generic isn’t available, ask if there’s a similar drug with a generic version,” suggests Dr. Gagne.
  2. Go to a big-box store. Many pharmacies in grocery stores and big-box chains offer hundreds of generic medications for just $4 (for a 30-day supply) or $10 (for a 90-day supply). Ask for the list when you’re at the pharmacy or look it up on the Internet, and bring a copy to your doctor. Don’t be discouraged if your medication isn’t on the list; check a different store. “Different chains have different lists,” says Dr. Gagne.
  3. Get a bigger dose. Some prescription medications can be divided with a pill splitter. Ask your doctor if that’s the case with your medication, and if it’s possible to get a double dose. For example, you might get 10-milligram (mg) pills that can be split into 5-mg pills. Some medications cannot be split, such as capsules or tablets that are enteric-coated, or those that release medicine over time. “As a general rule, extended-release or slow-release medications should not be split,” says Dr. Gagne. These include drugs like metformin ER (Glucophage XR) for diabetes and pantoprazole (Protonix) for heartburn.
  4. Get a larger supply. Instead of getting a prescription that lasts for 30 days, and making an insurance copay each time, ask for a 90-day supply so you can make just one copay every three months. This works for medications you take long-term.
  5. Apply for assistance. There are many kinds of prescription assistance programs, offered by state and local governments, Medicare, nonprofit groups, and even drug makers. The programs typically have income requirements. Nonprofit organizations include: Needy Meds and Partnership for Prescription Assistance. Other resources include state assistance programs and Medicare Extra Help. Another option is to call the manufacturer of your medication directly. You can look up your medication on this Medicare website.
  6. If you’re on Medicare, consider updating your plan. Medicare plans can change from year to year, including the medications they cover, and the copays and deductible amounts. You have an opportunity to switch Medicare plans during the annual enrollment period from October 15 to December 7. Review the options using Medicare’s personalized plan search on its website.
  7. Shop around. Medication retail prices vary. Some pharmacies buy directly from drug makers; others use a middleman, which can drive up prices. Call pharmacies in your area to compare prices, or use a computer or smartphone app to do the work for you, such as WeRx or GoodRx. The attorney general’s office in your state may also have a website that provides similar information.




When you’re sick, the last thing you want to do is go anywhere. But if you need a prescription medication to get yourself on the mend, you have no choice but to drag yourself off the couch — and away from your Netflix queue — to suffer through a long wait at the doctor’s office. Right?

Well, not always.

You may be able to obtain a prescription without leaving the comfort of your home — and it’ll probably take less time than you’ll spend picking a movie to watch.

All you need is access to a secure telehealth platform — one that allows you to conduct a live, online video call with a licensed medical provider (perhaps even your own doctor). That way, you can skip the drive, the wait, the exposure to even more germs and instead hop on your home computer or mobile device to obtain a prescription in a matter of minutes.

Sounds pretty great, huh? Before you log on and start your online journey to relief, though, there are a few things you’ll need to find out:

Learn how telemedicine can help you easily talk to your doctor.

1) The extent to which telehealth prescribing is permitted in your state.

In 2008, Congress adopted the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act, thus placing a nationwide ban on “dispensing controlled substances via the Internet without a ‘valid prescription,’” writes the Center for Connected Health Policy.

So, what makes a prescription valid? In the vast majority of cases, for a prescription to be considered valid, the practitioner issuing it must perform at least one medical evaluation of the patient. But, the rules governing the manner in which the doctor conducts that evaluation — that is, in person or via telemedicine — differ at the state level.

In other words, federal policy does not outright forbid medical providers from evaluating their patients using an online technology — but it doesn’t outright allow it, either. That means it’s on each individual state to define what constitutes permissible telemedicine practice within its borders.

2) Your state’s requirements for the establishment of a patient-provider relationship.

One of the key elements of state telehealth legislation is each state’s definition of the patient-provider relationship. That’s because, as the above-cited Center for Connected Health Policy page says, “Until that relationship is established, a prescription cannot be made.”

As this resource explains, “Some states require at least one in-person consultation to establish a patient-provider relationship. Recently, states have begun formulating policy on when and if telehealth can be used to establish a patient-provider relationship in relation to prescribing.” West Virginia, for example, recently enacted fairly detailed legislation around telemedicine practice standards and remote prescribing rules.

As Health Care Law Today reports, in West Virginia, if a patient has not previously established a patient-provider relationship with a particular physician, then that relationship can be established through “the use of telemedicine technologies which incorporate interactive audio using store and forward technology, real-time videoconferencing or similar secure video services during the initial physician-patient encounter; or [for] the practice of pathology and radiology, a physician-patient relationship may be established through store and forward telemedicine or other similar technologies.”

Curious about the laws in your state? This resource is a good place to start.

3) Whether the doctor evaluating you is licensed to practice in your state, specifically.

Most patients would much rather visit their own doctors — whether those visits occur in-person or online. But depending on the urgency of your medical situation — and the tool you use to seek telehealth services — you may not always receive your evaluation and prescription from your usual physician.

However, each state requires (with limited exceptions) that you receive medical treatment from a provider who is licensed to practice in that state specifically. Thus, you’ll need to make sure you seek the services of a physician who meets that requirement.

The good news? Thanks to a legislative effort known as the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, it’s becoming easier for physicians to obtain licensure in multiple states — and that means better “access to health care for patients in underserved or rural areas” who can now “more easily connect with medical experts through the use of telemedicine technologies,” explains this page.

Keep in mind that in some cases, an online visit may not be enough for the doctor to accurately diagnose your problem — which means you may end up needing a physical examination. But many common conditions — including urinary tract infections, flu, allergies, rashes, sore throats, and respiratory infections — are good candidates for telehealth evaluation and prescription.

So, all that’s left to do is snuggle into your blanket, press play on that cheesy rom-com, and wait for the ol’ medicine to kick in.

Can a Phone Doctor Write a Prescription?

Can a Phone Doctor Write a Prescription?

What is a phone doctor and can they write a prescription?
Most people will use at least one prescription drug in their lifetime and, in fact, many people take multiple prescription medications at any given time. Unfortunately, the cost of these medications is on the rise at an alarming rate – much higher than wage increases for most Americans, making it hard to keep up financially. The United States has the highest cost of prescription drugs in the world. In 2013, the per capita spending on prescription drugs was $858 – a number that is more than double the average cost per capita in 19 other industrialized nations.

To make matters worse, the process of obtaining a prescription and attending follow-up appointments is often cumbersome and time-consuming, leading many to put off seeing a doctor longer than they should. With a growing population and seemingly fewer and fewer primary care physicians, it can be difficult to get a timely appointment with your doctor even when you’re really sick. Add to that the time spent driving to the office, sitting in the waiting and exam rooms, and the drive back home, and you have used up an all too large portion of your day.

The use of technology and a digital lifestyle are are at an all-time high, and there is no better convenience than that of telehealth, also known as telemedicine, which is the ability connect remotely via video conference, phone call, email, or even text message with a health professional.

This is not to be confused with a virtual symptom checker, which allows you to enter a list of the symptoms you’re experiencing and provides you with a long list of everything that may be (but likely is not) wrong with you. A telemedicine interaction is a one-on-one, private, and confidential appointment with a real practicing physician.

Indeed, telehealth platforms have come so far that you can now see a doctor face-to-face remotely right on your phone. These “phone doctors” are fully-trained physicians who are able to discuss your medical history and current symptoms, examine you, and write you a prescription, as needed, wherever you may be. As with picking any doctor, you’ll want to read reviews and make sure that you’re picking a remote doctor who is a good fit for your personal needs.

Sound too good to be true? There are a few steps you’ll want to take first before you’ll be able to work with a phone doctor, but after that, it should be smooth sailing.

How is Phone Doctor Appointment Different from a Traditional Office Visit?
Those who have never experienced a doctor’s appointment over the phone may wonder how it differs from a traditional doctor’s appointment. When it comes right down to it, the main difference is that there is greater convenience when seeing a phone doctor than seeing one in person. Of course, if you are bleeding or have a broken bone, you’ll want to see a doctor in person since a phone doctor obviously won’t be able to physically touch you.

As with any time that you see a doctor, you’ll first make an appointment, most of the time for the very same day. Depending on the website or app that you are using, this may involve filling out a form or creating an account. At the time of your appointment, you can expect a phone call or video chat (depending on your phone capabilities) with a doctor. The best part about a face-to-face chat with a doctor over the phone is that, in addition to them seeing you and assessing your physical state, you can see their face, which often makes things feel more legitimate and reassuring.

During your appointment, you can expect to explain your symptoms or ongoing issue, ask any questions you may have, and receive a diagnosis (if appropriate) from the doctor. If necessary, you may even receive a prescription which the phone doctor can send right to your pharmacy of choice. You can expect this phone consultation to take about 10 to 15 minutes just as it would in your regular doctor’s office. The best part is, there’s no drive in, no parking, and no waiting room to be had!

How to Get a Prescription From a Doctor you see over the Phone
If part of the reason you’re seeking an appointment with a phone doctor is because you may need a prescription medication, it’s a good idea to do your homework ahead of time to be sure that the doctor you’ll be seeing is able to write a prescription in your state. The doctor must be licensed in your state in order to be able to give you a prescription.

While the laws governing telehealth and phone doctors are constantly changing, some states still do not allow doctors to write a prescription after seeing a patient virtually. So, be sure to check the most up-to-date laws in your state.

It’s also important to note that some medications really require an in-person, physical examination before they are prescribed. What doctors are willing and able to prescribe over the phone will vary based on the state, the organization that they work for, and even personal preference. Some examples of medications which PlushCare doctors are unable to prescribe include:

Medicinal marijuana
Seroquel, Zyprexa, Risperdal and other antipsychotic medications
Adderall and Ritalin and other stimulants
Morphine, oxycodone, Vicodin and other narcotics
Xanax, Ambien, Ativan, Lunesta and other sedatives and sleep aids
While you may be disappointed if one of the medications listed was what you were hoping to obtain, the fact of the matter is that most telehealth doctors are able to prescribe and refill the most common medications used in the United States including antibiotics, allergy medication, and birth control right from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
Is Visiting a Doctor on Your Phone Right for You?
Before booking your first appointment with a doctor on your phone, make sure that it’s the right choice for you by asking yourself the following questions:

Do you have the right technology to see a doctor remotely? Many doctors will speak to you on the phone, so you would need to have some way to receive a phone call. However, if you’re hoping to see the doctor, you’ll need a smartphone, tablet, or computer with internet access. Some programs are also app-based, so you may need to download an app in order to get started.
Are you comfortable and confident with the answers you will receive from a doctor online? Rest assured that the doctor you’ll see on your screen is a real, licensed physician. They are just practicing medicine in an office that you won’t physically go to.
Do you have medical insurance? While you may be afraid to make an appointment if you don’t have insurance coverage, seeing a doctor on your phone may actually make things cheaper for you. You can get an estimate of your cost before the appointment and you will likely find that it is less than what it would cost you to see someone in person.
Will your insurance cover the appointment? A common concern when it comes to medical care is attending an appointment that you later find out was not covered by your insurance and getting stuck footing the bill. The good news is that you’ll only have to pay a copay as outlined by your insurance carrier and you can check exactly what that will be before your appointment. You may even find that you can get an additional discount through your insurance or your employer for using a telehealth provider.
Reasons to Book a Phone Doctor Appointment Today:
There are a number of reasons to book an appointment through a phone doctor app or website, the first and foremost of which is convenience. It couldn’t be more simple to book the actual appointment.

Then, there’s the fact that there’s no need to find childcare, drive anywhere, or even put pants on if you don’t want to. For those who live in a rural setting from which it is difficult to get to a doctor’s office, this can save hours of time not to mention gas costs and tolls.

There’s also the fact that doctor’s offices are usually only open during the work week. Taking time off from work to go see a doctor is a hardship for most people especially for a minor illness. That issue is eliminated when using a telehealth provider.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly is the avoiding of waiting, both for the appointment date and in the waiting room. It may take days to get into see your primary care physician or even weeks to see a specialist. You can expect to wait hours in the emergency room and 45 minutes or more in urgent care. All of this is avoided with a phone doctor appointment. Of course, it’s still advised to go to the emergency room for a true medical emergency.

How to Go About Making an Appointment with a Virtual Doctor
You’ve decided that you’re ready to make a phone doctor appointment – great! If you’re not sure exactly what to do, don’t worry. The process of getting an appointment is just as easy as the appointment itself.