Dialysis Supply Companies: You Have ONE Job

This blog post was made by Gale Schulke, RN, CDN on May 11th, 2017.
Dialysis Supply Companies: You Have ONE Job

By Gale Golden Schulke, RN, CDN

What happened to the Gold Standard for customer service in dialysis? I am specifically finger-pointing to the dialysis supply companies. I spend an insane amount of time just dealing with the various companies and their foul-ups. This has got to be exhausting for our patients who are the victims of this downward trend in customer service. Our precious dialysis patients have enough to deal with just being on dialysis. Now they are subject to 45 min to an hour wait times ON THE PHONE just to place an order or talk to a customer service representative. Then, the person on the other end gets the order wrong. It isn’t just the patient order, it is the PRESCRIPTION these companies are not following. When a patient has 6 liter bags of 1.5 solution on their prescription, why would they send them 5 liter bags?

The latest is that the companies are changing routes and delivery dates. It does not matter what the patient may have planned. If they go on vacation during that precious delivery window, guess what! They move the date and charge the clinic $500 to deliver off-schedule. Can I charge them $500 for changing the delivery dates? Of course not.

What happened to the pride of offering White Glove service? I have patients who came home after work to find their entire delivery sitting on the driveway soaking wet from the rain. My elderly patients are left to carry 40 heavy boxes up a flight of stairs because the delivery person told them that it isn’t their job to take them upstairs. The delivery service used to do not only that, but also used to stack the boxes according to their expiration dates.

Delays in delivery are causing major issues for our patients. My patient’s wife was crying on the phone to me today. She was upset because she had run out of one particular solution and it is on a 2-week backorder. She said to me, “Don’t they care that this is my husband’s life? This is not like taking Advil instead of aspirin. This is what he has to have to get the fluid off of his heart.”

One company calls the clinic at 7am—before anyone is there—to get approval for an overcharge. They KNOW we are not open at 7:00am. They do it because if we do not return the call in 1 hour, to the minute, they can go ahead and process the order to deliver 2 boxes of fluid and charge me $250 to do it. If this occurred only once, I would think that it was an oversight. Unfortunately it happens all the time. Even when I called it to their attention, I was told, essentially, “too bad.”

There is something seriously wrong with the mentality of the people running these companies. They have lost all sense of decency in order to make a profit for their shareholders. Does it REALLY cost $500 to process an order if it is 1 day late (because the patient was on hold the day before for 45 minutes). I don’t think so. I understand that they don’t exist for altruistic reasons. They need to make a profit. But do they have to do it at the expense of decent customer service? If you are going to charge me $500 to do an “off-schedule” delivery, then you had darn well better haul it up the stairs and put it away!

I might add that apologies only go so far. The suppliers think if they send out a letter saying how sorry they are for the “inconvenience”, all will be okay. This is just bandaid therapy. You need to fix the problem so that it does not happen again, and again, and again.

It is becoming more common than not for there to be delays, shortages, problems, recalls, cartridges that don’t work, and tech support staff who do not know how to fix the problems we identify. When do you need your best tech support? At 2:00 in the morning—that is when a majority of our patients are dialyzing.

One can hope that the suppliers will realize that they need to step up and provide good customer service, but they have a rather exclusive audience, so they really don’t need to.

Comments

  • Shelly

    Jun 12, 5:39 PM

    As a nurse in a LDO home program I feel totally exasperated by all the ridiculous mandates and practice changes of late that affect my patients, my fiscal outcomes and my precious time.

    These vendors have taken a road that so obviously reflects their lessening interest in what is best for a population that does not need these hassles.

    While we attempt to continue to champion for our patients and keep costs down, it is near impossible at times to do this successfully. UGH is all I can say!

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  • Carmen

    May 16, 9:19 PM

    I received a vm Fri, May 12th, 2017, that my scheduled delivery order MAY be incomplete. My delivery was scheduled for Monday, May 15th, 17 boxes of 2.5% solution. I only received my 2 boxes if mini caps and ONE box of 1.5% solution. I've been a victim of having an incomplete order and 2-3 boxes were short; but NOT my whole order!!! This is absolutely unacceptable!!! This solution is the lifeblood or lifeline that keeps me alive and every home dialysis patient alive! I don't know if more warehouses need to be built; more employees to be hired to make the bags, or more drivers need to be hired to make the deliveries- somethings have got to change. They need to change NOW! I alerted my Congressman and I'm going to fight! I'm in my early 40's; very active, awaiting a transplant, and i have a lot of life to live. I will not suffer lack of dialysis solution because the ignorant company doesn't put the customer (patients) first.

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  • Nieltje

    May 13, 10:25 AM

    Thanks Gale, for your thoughtful insight. I guess my only consolation is that this total lack of customer service is rampant in all areas of our life, but like you, I agree that it adds insult to injury that dialysis patients must now add this to their list of worries. I have had discussions with companies about involving 3rd parties when it is not always necessary. This just increases the margin of error. Perhaps removing the 3rd parties (shippers), hitting them in their purse strings, is the answer. Each clinic could hire a PT employee to distribute "white glove" supplies to their patients, probably cheaper than all of the surcharges and overages they are currently getting hit with! Food for thought!

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  • Mariann

    May 11, 7:11 PM

    Gale, all of us home dialysis nurses share your pain! The REAL kick in the butt (besides all these ridiculous charges) is that these suppliers CANNOT EVEN NOTIFY YOU by phone, email or whatever that delivery schedules have changed, all or part of supplies are not being shipped on scheduled dates, and what the delivery dates of back orders will be, leaving everyone wondering ARE MY SUPPLIES EVER COMING! I was told that would be TOO MANY phone calls to relay that information. Heaven forbid you could at least get a computer generated email. HOW MANY MORE PHONE CALLS repeatedly from patients and their nurses to find out this information are being made? Sooooooo much more efficient use of everyone's time.

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