Why Won’t My Doctor Talk To Me?


Last week I was in the produce section of my local Fred Meyer’s store picking out some naval oranges when I noticed one of my neighbors stopped in the aisle just opposite me. Crossing the black and white square tiles that separated us, she leaned over my almost empty grocery cart, shaking her head sadly.  “Louise, doctors just don’t seem to want to talk their patients any more.”


“Really?” I asked, turning around to face her, an orange in each hand. Placing them in my cart, I continued, “What makes you think that? ”  


“Well,” she explained, “It all started when I saw that one of my heart medicines was almost out. According to the bottle, there weren’t any refills. So I decided to call my doctor before I ran out. You know the music you listen to while you’re waiting? Then there was a message that said if I was calling in to request a refill to please hang up and call my pharmacy instead.  But without any refills on my prescription, what can my pharmacy do? They can’t fill it, either. Why won’t my doctor talk to me?”


It does seem like doctors are telling their patients,  “Don’t ask ME for your medication refills. Call your pharmacy instead.”


“Actually,” I responded, “although might seem rude, there are good reasons for your doctor’s office to ask you contact your pharmacy first for any refills of your medicines. One reason is the need to be available to see all the patients who have come to the clinic for their scheduled appointments. Sitting in the waiting room for an hour because your doctor is running late from addressing phone messages is no fun for you, your doctor, or the nursing staff.


“Another reason your doctor is requesting to hear from your pharmacy is that many people (maybe even you) go to more than one doctor or medical provider. You might have a family doctor that you see for everything else but prefer having your gynecologist do your female exams. A woman might be referred to a urologist by her regular doctor for bladder control issues. As a pharmacist, I often see medications coming from 2 or 3 completely different doctors on the list of prescriptions we fill for our customers.”


“In our world of faxes, email and electronic medical records, you’d think that your doctor would be in the loop about what other doctors are doing for you. That sure would be great way to avoid a lot of confusion! That happens sometimes, but more often than not, if you see another doctor your other doctors won’t get told about it. “


“The most important reason your doctor wants you to contact your pharmacy for refills is so they can see what drugs you are asking for, who is prescribing them to you, and when they were refilled last. They use that to update your medication list and to decide whether to refill it right then or ask the pharmacy to send the request to the other medical provider.”


“Please don’t take it personally that your doctor’s office doesn’t want to talk to you about your refill. Doing it this way instead helps keep you safe.”


You can help yourself stay safe by making a list of all the medications you currently take and bringing a copy of it with you to every doctor’s appointment. On your list include each medicine you take, the strength, how often you take it, what you take it for, and the medical provider who prescribes it.  If you do not have a record of all your prescription medicines, please visit www.AskDrLouise.com and download one for free (see the Products tab).


Warm Regards,

Dr. Louise Achey