Friday, January 31, 2014

Whew! ExpressScripts comes through in time with my RA med Orencia

It took five calls and a lot of assertive patience to get this med.
I have an excellent result to report after a trying exercise in consumer advocacy over the last week, working with my required Blue Cross/Blue Shield prescription fulfillment service, corporate giant Express Scripts (@ExpressScripts/@ExpressRxHelp )/Accredo (formerly Medco).

It has been terribly difficult and disconcerting several days to get my weekly RA biologic med, Orencia (abatacept), a specialty med that is critical for me to be able to continue working by reducing the painful, debilitating effects of rheumatoid arthritis.

Good news!  It arrived early this morning via UPS! Thank you, ExpressScripts.

I've documented the frustrations about this company's poor customer service and questionable business practices in several posts (here, here, here, and most recently, on related to this latest horrible nonsense here). I have 6500 Facebook friends/subscribers 14K Tweeps, and 15K G+ followers that have been following my chronicle about this mess, and some of them shared their experience with ExpressScripts.

This latest debacle was the last straw in terms of delays, shipment cancellations and confused customer service calls about my account status. On the positive side, I was also fortunate to find a community of active and vocal customers of ExpressScripts on Twitter that have dealt with issues like mine over and over again.

One such person is the dynamic Valéria M. Souza (@VSouza_STL), who has been fielding complaints from fellow patients about the poor customer service doled out by ExpressScripts/Accredo and has researched and documented the many customer service shortcomings since the corporate prescription behemoth swallowed up Medco. She is working diligently to establish customer-to-corporate communications to show the ES executives that it is in their best interest to do right by patients dependent on their service.

I want to thank Valéria for forwarding information on my situation to corporate as an example of how NOT to do business, and how simple things like listening and ensuring follow through with customers is critical to improving ExpressScripts' reputation. And they should care about that reputation.

Orencia is injected once a week.
Missing a dose can have a devastating, painful impact on RA patients.
While I realize that shareholder relations and profits are linchpins to any company's success, it's equally critical to keep in mind the business you are in -- helping patients maintain their health. It's not selling widgets.

And in the case of specialty medications, you're talking about patients that have chronic conditions that, if untreated by delays screw ups in orders, may result in dangerous and/or painful circumstances. The need for good customer service is essential, and ExpressScripts has been wildly inconsistent. Quality control (in terms of controlling losses) is clearly important to the company, but it should not come out of the hide of patients whose coverage by their insurer is already subject to the whim of contracts and agreements that have zero to do with maintenance of the health of subscribers.

And a big thumbs up here to Accredo -- I also want to thank the Accredo operator that I spoke with on Wednesday; I don't know his name, but he was the only one to take the time to go into my records and various connected databases to verify I had a 84-day prescription from my doctor (it somehow was "changed" to 28-day by Accredo), and confirm I was entitled to receive the entire script in one shipment. He also got it to me this AM, just in time for me to take my dose at 4PM today.

[NOTE: Why this day/time? It's because the medication has significant side effects -- chills, fatigue, etc. -- that make me pretty sick over the weekend. So I take it so that I can be recovered enough by Monday when it fully kicks in and the side effects, subside. It means my weekends are pretty shot; but most RA patients will tell you that this is the price we have to pay to live a fairly normal life. There's no cure for RA; meds like Orencia extend your productive quality of life.]

Impact of Social Media on Corporate Image

It's 2014 --  In this day and age it makes no sense to do wrong by customer -- the word will get out. Social media like Facebook and Twitter have a significant impact in spreading feedback from customers. It can give thumbs up  to companies that go the extra mile, but if a company acts in bad faith, well, if you have enough followers, you can really marshall forces to jack up a company's image. Who needs that? Why not build bridges to excellence; our health care industry is already a minefield. What we do have is solidarity as customers to help make things improve.

I'm satisfied with this resolution; I am mindful that others are still struggling to get their essential meds and will continue to monitor the Twitterfeeds @ExpressScripts/@ExpressRxHelp

* You know just how much Express Scripts/Accredo sucks?
* Unintentional lessons learned from Accredo/Express Scripts F'up - just how much my RA has progressed
* Too little, too late love from ExpressScripts

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