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During a National Backorder on Sterile Water Drip Bags, PHS Offers Solutions for Patients

It’s been nearly a year since COVID arrived in the United States, putting profound pressure on healthcare systems across the country. Today, hospitals, clinics, homecare companies, nursing homes, and more are still feeling the impact – one of which is a low inventory of supplies due to increased demand as well as manufacturer limitations and restrictions.

In April 2020, PHS began experiencing delays in shipments of one-liter and two-liter sterile water drip bags – a product used by more than 400 patients in our Minneapolis and Milwaukee offices alone.

10 months later, PHS – and other companies across the country – continue to experience backorders and shortages of this product. And while we cannot control the speed of production or manufacturer limitations, cross-departmental team members within our company continue to refine processes to minimize impact as much as possible, creating safe and efficient solutions for patients in their home.


Step-by-Step Education

Recognizing the stress this puts on patients who rely on these products for their healthcare needs, our education team created a step-by-step document explaining how to safely reuse a sterile water drip bag. We have also prepared a short video with PHS respiratory therapist John Sheahan, RRT-NPS, LRT, to walk through the steps for Reusing a Sterile Water Drip Bag.

While these steps are meant to be short-term solutions, they can help patients extend the life of their supplies in a sterile and efficient manner.

Managing Backorders

With so many patients relying on sterile water drip bags, ensuring patient needs are being met in a timely and orderly fashion is a large undertaking – but PHS team members have stepped up to the challenge, with specific staff identified within departments to manage the process.

  • When a patient places an order, customer service creates a ticket for the request of up to half of their monthly use (based on patient history).
  • Those tickets are held in the warehouse until a shipment comes in. When a shipment comes in, orders are filled from oldest to newest and aim to deliver at least a portion of the supply needed to patients as they become available.
  • Our purchasing team is in constant communication with vendors and manufacturers, tracking shipments and placed orders to maintain up-to-date knowledge on what to expect and when so they can be set up for shipment to families.
  • If family has a concern with the lower quantity or delay, we connect them with a respiratory therapist for clinical direction and recommendations such as steps for reusing a bag (above), refillable bags, or cleaning tablets, if applicable. Clinicians are also regularly communicating with patients they follow to provide solutions, assistance, and education when needed.

It is truly a team effort to ensure these supplies are managed as efficiently as possible – an effort that has led to patients receiving the supplies they need, in the short term and on an ongoing basis.

Ongoing Advocacy

PHS will continue to advocate for solutions that provide the safest care plan and minimal burden on families. We recognize the absolute importance of having a safe care plan in place at home and will continue to partner with our patients every day to help them achieve their goals.

Originally published: February 17, 2021