Solara Medical

I just had a HORRIFIC experience with Solara as the distributor for my Dexcom G4, and I just wanted to post to make sure everyone's aware of their lazy and unfriendly business practices. Here's the letter I sent to them:

It is not often that I take to Facebook or use other means to publicly complain about a company. I generally give customer service reps and those at companies like this the benefit of the doubt. I mean, hey, customer service is HARD. You have to deal with irate customers, many of whom are acting unreasonably.

But the experience I just had with your company just left me in such a fit of rage that I had trouble getting back to work. I'll explain:

I order(ed) Dexcom G4 supplies through your company. I had a choice between using my insurance to go directly through Dexcom or using my pharmacy coverage to go through Solara. Even though Solara inexplicably could only fulfill one month supply at a time rather than three months, it was (slighly) cheaper to go through them, so I gave it a shot.

About 2 weeks ago, on my last sensor, I called for a reorder. See, I'm leaving on a 10-day vacation this coming Friday, so I figured 2 weeks would be more than enough to have the shipment sent in time for my trip. I was told that I needed a new certificate of medical need from my doctor's office, but that they had all the info, so they could handle it and ship it out. Great! I'll have my sensors in time for my trip. You see, as a Type 1 diabetic, I rely on a lot of different tools to make my life easier, ESPECIALLY on a much-needed and much-appreciated vacation, where the sensor really allows me to enjoy the sun and sand without constantly checking my blood sugar. I can eat and drink adventurously, and really enjoy my vacations more. That's an example of something that makes my difficult life easier, as opposed to your company, which piles on the complexity and makes my life considerably harder. But anyway, at least I'd have my sensors for my big vacation, right?!


A week later (last Thursday), I hadn't received any sensors or received any calls about what was going on. I called Solara, only to be told that "We faxed the form, but hadn't heard back." No follow-up with the doctor's office, no call to me to update, nothing. I guess if I hadn't called myself, Solara was content to let my prescription fester in the fax ether rather than fulfill their promise to me to handle getting me my supplies. As it turns out, you had some random fax number. It had something like a 686- area code. I don't even know where that is. My doctor, like me, is in Philadelphia. I have no clue where you would have gotten that number, but regardless, I called my doctor's office, found what should be the correct fax number, and gave it to you. I'll have you note that nowhere in this process, so far, has anyone offered to actually call my doctor's office for me, or really help me along with this process in general, but rather, I get a sense from your company that, "well, we tried, and that's about all we can do!"

That was Thursday. By Monday, still nothing. No shipments, no call from Solara, and no call from doctor's office. Monday, I called both entities. Everyone was blaming each other. "We haven't gotten the fax," my doctor's office said. "Our fax may have been down. Here are two other fax numbers to try." Your company told me they had faxed it, and never heard back. That's it. No follow-up call, no call to me, nothing. I even made sure to let everyone involved knew the now-pretty-urgent situation regarding my trip this weekend. Again, I feel that, if I don't take time out of my busy day to be the middle-man, absolutely nothing will be accomplished.

Come Tuesday, I still hadn't heard from your company. Another hour or so worth of calls back and forth reveals that yes, you've faxed it a few times, and no, you haven't gotten it back, and no, the doctor's office hasn't received any faxes regarding the prescription. This is starting to get really frustration. The only assurance I have from you that anything will be solved is "yes, we know this can be frustrating." No, you don't know. I'm told it is being refaxed, and, at some point, someone mentions they are going to look into waiving the cost of overnight shipping since, it is now dangerously close to my departure date for my vacation.

So now it is Wednesday. I prepare myself for another few hours on the phone with both you and my doctor's office, once again the middle-man. Finally, though, this morning, I was finally able to confirm that the fax went through, and it was received by your office. Success! Only there's still the little problem of the sensors needing to make it to me on Friday, otherwise this will have all been for nothing, and I'll be waiting til I get back for my sensors. After putting me on hold and speaking with her supervisor, Michael, your customer service rep assured me that, as a one time courtesy, you'd waive the overnight shipping fee and get them to me tomorrow. That's great and all. I can never get back the hours of my life spent dealing with this mess, but at least I'll have my sensors by the time I leave, and I won't be stuck paying for an overnight shipping charge that never should have occurred in the first place.

But we're not done! I get a call from Michael, the supervisor, who says that HE spoke with HIS boss, who said they can't waive the fee, and I'm going to be charged. I'm irate. This isn't even about the money (although, that's $51 that would be really nice to have on my vacation). My anger, rather, is about a few other things:

1) Your complete lack of ability to take responsibility for your actions, your patients, or your employees' actions. Your reason for denying the complimentary overnight shipping is that the problem was with the doctor's office fax machine, and thus you are completely absolved of sin. See, it is really easy to blame other people. But you still have an obligation to your customer to follow through on things. It's not enough to fax a form off into the ether, hope it gets returned, and shrug your shoulders when it doesn't get done and say, "Well, we did enough!" Because you didn't do enough. It is not apparent that at any point you made any effort to actually get in touch with the doctor's office. Instead, you relied on your customer to be a middle-man for you and do all the heavy lifting, despite the fact that your are GETTING PAID to do this. For a living. This is your livelihood. Act like it. A culture of blame leads to a lack of responsibility for, and accountability to, your customers. This ties in with the second point...

2) Your utter disregard for the consideration to call me, your customer, and see if maybe there was a wrong fax number, but (a) we are looking into it, or (b) you need to look into (again, the middle-man, see number 1 above). If you're going to make ME do the heavy lifting and make endless phone calls in a circle of despair and frustration...well, I can't even get that far unless I know there is a problem. Not once until I threatened to take my business elsewhere did you make any effort to actually contact me, and even then, that was only to let me know that you wouldn't be covering the overnight shipping costs. That's not good business. And there is little doubt that this is a systemic issue at your company given how often it appears in complaints on your Facebook page.

3) Now, I'm going to start assuming things, but here's what I think is going on: You don't care, because you think patients don't have a choice. YOU ARE WRONG. I do have a choice. As I mentioned, for slightly more money, I could direct order from Dexcom. This is a luxury I will take at this point in order to never have to deal with you again. But this lack of caring about the customer USUALLY comes from the complacency of a perceived monopoly, or a perceived lack of customer choice, and you are losing big time here. I will not be using you again. And, in fact, the second I actually receive my one month supply of sensors, this letter will be posted to your Facebook page, on the Diabetes Hand Foundation's social network, and any other venue I can get it on to make sure that as many diabetics as possible know about your complete lack of consideration for your customers.


Adam Kaye, MD MBA
Physician, Type 1 Diabetic, and Former Solara Customer


Adam - I share your sense of frustration. It never ceases to amaze me when a company takes a less-than-friendly stance with customers, especially when a satisfied customer will order a continuing stream of supplies over time.

You've pushed back as a consumer, sent them a detailed complaint, and used the internet to warn others. I think you are smart to switch back to your direct supply route with Dexcom. Consider the extra money as a great investment in de-stressing your life.

I hope that other market players fill (or will fill) this space and bring a quick and natural demise to this poor customer service supplier.

Enjoy your vacation!

Adam, I can't argue with anything you posted above, and have had similar experiences.

I will comment, though, that expecting anyone else to actively put the time and effort in to making sure multiple parties are working in your interest is unrealistic. Not just in a health care situation, but any situation.

Simply put, it is cost-prohibitive to have staff available to shepherd individual customers ordinary multiparty processing of something like this. There is a huge difference between a customer service person going from one call to the next, vs. an account manager who is not on the phone all day but rather actively monitoring and managing an account. The latter is the sort of service required to take care of your situation, and does not exist for simple consumer order processing. And it never will.

So, to keep your own sanity, and your blood pressure down, it's helpful to just accept that not only are you your own best advocate, realistically you are the only advocate for your needs.

I had a similar situation with Insulet back in June reording Omnipods. Almost the same situation. When it got to the point of me threatening legal action because I was on my last pod, they sent me a few to bridge until all the paperwork got done. Still, I had to act as the "general contractor" through the whole thing -- I had to stay on top of everyone else, calling, making sure stuff happened.

So, I'm far more sanguine about it now. My next reorder of pods is scheduled for early december; I will be working the system starting next week.

It ain't pretty, but it is what it is.

Thanks, Dave. I totally agree. Unfortunately, having Diabetes involves not just managing blood sugar, but being, basically, a personal clinical manager, social worker, and, sometimes psychiatrist all at once for yourself. Usually, I have pretty thick skin about this stuff. But this episode left me particularly rageful. There's a difference between a patient taking hold of his/her own situation and a company basically ignoring any pleas for them to expedite the process and foregoing basic good business practices. I also don't think it's too much to ask for them to at least give me a call back later in the day if they haven't heard back, especially when I'd now been calling them, exasperated at the length of the process, multiple times over the past few days. The denial of ANY blame and the refusal to pay the overnight shipping fee was, at best, inconsiderate, and at worst, indicative of a poor business culture.

I feel you on Omnipod. I've been with them since 2006, and they've made customer service improvements, but interactions with them still require a lot of work on my part.

Unfortunately, having Diabetes involves not just managing blood sugar, but being, basically, a personal clinical manager, social worker, and, sometimes psychiatrist all at once for yourself.
Spot-on, Adam!

It's quite a burden. And it's easy to fall into despair (usually after anger), and give up -- at least for a bit. I've been there.

All this technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand we are able to do a miraculously better job at controlling this disease compared to the 60s-70s when my Grandfather was battling this, but it introduces a spectrum of new burdens.

Back when managing diabetes consisted of glucose urine strips (stones and bear knives compared to glucometers) and shooting R and N based on fixed dosing or sliding scales, it's a far more complex disease to manage today.

However, in the end, it's all worth it for the vastly improved outcomes. Like you, I enjoy the flexibility and freedom a G4 gives me in just enjoying life -- that includes being able to participate and enjoy food in ways that could not be done effectively decades ago. Plus, I just feel a whole lot better all the time than a lot of diabetics did in the past.

Anyway, hang in there, bud. Some of the best therapy for diabetics dealing with an unforgiving world out there is Tud :-)


I agree that the company should have at least alerted you to a problem. Not too long ago, an online pet supply company sent me an email when my vet had not responded to their request for a prescription to a special dog food I had ordered. If a pet supply company can alert me to a problem in a non-urgent situation, then Solara could have done the same for you. Sorry you had such an ordeal.

Adam said: "There's a difference between a patient taking hold of his/her own situation and a company basically ignoring any pleas for them to expedite the process and foregoing basic good business practices."

Dave said: "There is a huge difference between a customer service person going from one call to the next, vs. an account manager who is not on the phone all day but rather actively monitoring and managing an account. The latter is the sort of service required to take care of your situation, and does not exist for simple consumer order processing. And it never will."

I don't know enough about business practices to know who is right. all i know is that if solara feels customer dissatisfaction as customers leave, they will improve their customer service, or go under (slowly or quickly, I don't know). If a lot of customers are dissatisfied but have no affordable alternative and so stick with solara, solara will continue to give bad customer service. too bad for direct tv and comcast i found netflix (much much cheaper and has enough of what i want). cable is changing because of a better competitor, example: hbo adding content via the internet. i hated direct tv so much i used to write a count down of the number of months remaining on my direct tv contract on every check i sent them.

First, everyone understand that I'm on Adam's side in this. I'm not defending poor customer service like this.

My responses here are based on having seen this from the inside, at a middle-management level. While I was not directly working as part of the Customer Center at Intuit, as the Program Director in one of their divisions I spent a lot of time working with that dept, their management, etc. I had intimate exposure to budgets, processes, policies, training, etc. I spent plenty of time on site visits seeing it all in operation.

And Intuit was, at the time, one of the better rated Customer Service centers around.

The bottom line is, the sort of problems that happened to Adam are a relatively small portion of the overall orders. The vast majority of them just go through without any complaint. This is a result of many factors, among them the tolerance/need of the customer. Most customers do not have an urgent need when they order, nor are there problems, so when it takes 3-4 weeks to arrive, there's no issue.

Because of this reality, it is simply not cost-effective to put the structure, and effort, in place to handle these situations better. A company that does have this sort of capability does so for more abstract reasons than simply cost.

It's a sad fact, but then so is the issue of trying to find a good General Contractor for a home project too :-)

UPDATE: So I did successfully get my sensors on time, 1 day before my vacation. (My vacation was EXCELLENT, by the way).

I got a call from Hector at Solara, who is one of the managers. He was very apologetic, and I definitely appreciated the honesty and openness with which he explained their side of the story. I did get the sense that Hector wasn't just "yessing" me to death, or giving me the old "We take customer complaints very seriously." I got the sense the company was pretty regretful about the situation, and is also using the experience as a training tool to make sure similar things don't happen again. In fact, he said it sounds like there was no mechanism in place there to "flag" a situation that might require escalation, but they are moving to a new electronic documentation system that will help in this regard.

So, thanks to Solara for an honest discussion about the situation.

Anyway, to Dave's point, I think you're right that a company doesn't necessarily have a financial interest in providing a certain level of care when it represents a small portion of their sales. But I DO think that any customer service company would be well-advised to have SOME system of flagging cases that need escalation, and maybe having a manager take care of that situation. For example, in this case, some way of the system saying, "We've documented 5 calls from Adam in the last week, and his order is not closed. Let's escalate this to a manager." This is something that is doable with current technology and, as far as I can tell, not too costly if you're already implementing some sort of electronic customer tracking and documentation solution.

I also have had a bad experience with Solara. I was paying cash for Dexcom supplies, for which they had a low advertised price. However, they charged my credit card the insurance price (much, much higher price) and then it took about 15 phone calls, 15 emails and about a full month of aggravation to get the refund. They refunded me about half what they owed, and it took a long struggle to get the remaining amount. Their prices are cheap, but they will rip you off in a second if you aren't vigilant. They are very shady.

If you payed by credit care you could have disputed the charge. This turns the entire thing around, your credit card company takes the money back and the company has to prove that you owe them an amount. It becomes their problem, not yours.

I threatened that, and that's when I fully got their attention.

I get my Dexcom supplies from Foundation Care under my prescription benefits. They give outstanding customer service. I called last Monday for sensors; they were shipped the same day.

Good for you!!

I had a similar experience with Solara and it took over 6 m months to get my money returned. They required me to pay my $500 deductible to them before shipping my CGM supplies, but then it turns out, my pump company submitted their claim first so my deductible was actually owed to the pump company and not Solara. I called every 2 weeks for months and they would act shocked and surprised. I would talk to supervisors and managers and they would assure me it would be taken care of, but then nothing would happen. It was ridiculous! I finally got my refund 6 months after I brought it to their attention and started fighting with them.

Additioanlly, they won't send my CGM supplies out until EXACTLY 4 weeks have gone by, according to them. But I'm almost alway out of CGM sensors and on the phone with them and they say, "it hasn't been 4 weeks yet… it'll be 4 weeks tomorrow" or in 2 days or whenever they feel like it… THEN they ill ship them and it takes another 2 days or so to get the sensors. I will never use solar again after I drop this insurance.

I get my dexcom supplies etc. from Solara, I'm not sure how I ended up with them I guess it was a decision made by my insurance company maybe. So far I haven't had any major problems but it is worrisome to read of other people's troubles. The agent who managed getting my dexcom also ended up getting my pen needles for me through them with no copay, there was a mix up about the number or needles but after a few phone calls I finally got it straightened out.

I'm so sorry you had this problem. I also see this as part of the general insurance company nightmare where we need endless yearly renewals of medical need approvals causing part of the problem in this case. If you have already established the need for something with a life long condition it shouldn't be necessary to re-establish this over and over again. I'm glad you got this worked out and I hope dexcom does a better job with less stress for you.

Late reply on this thread, but anyone researching Solara may read this.

If possible, avoid Solara. I was required to use them after my insurance company no longer allowed me to deal directly with Dexcom. I LOVE my Dexcom.

In short, Solara never does what it promises. Automatic shipping? They promise yes then never do it. It seems their sales people like to try to add items to the order and with automatic shipping that’s not possible.

Try to call them and 99% of the time you just get voicemail, which is not returned. I’ve found if you tell the voicemail you are a NEW customer, you can actually talk to someone.

When they call you because you’re due a refill, it’s a robocall telling you to wait for a representative to become available. 8-10 rings later, I hang up.

This from a company that gets several thousand dollars a year from me.

I’ve emailed my insurance company to ask for an option.