business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Yesterday I received an email from an MNB reader that said:

I've attached an email that to me exemplifies transparency in a tough situation.  I use a CPAP machine to sleep at night because have a condition known as sleep apnea.  About a year ago Philips identified a problem with several models of their CPAP machines.  Below is an email I received about why the process of repairing the machines is taking so long.  I have received several emails from Philips in the past year, but I think the latest one is a great example of transparency and owning your mistakes.

I agree … and I want to share parts of the email with the MNB community.  It is from David Ferguson, the Business Leader for Sleep and Respiratory Care with Philips Respironics, and reads as follows:

I am personally reaching out to those who have been affected by our voluntary recall. Since announcing the voluntary recall in June 2021, our goal has been to replace affected devices as quickly as possible while keeping patients, customers and clinicians up to date. It’s a significant task: we need to remediate 5.5 million devices across more than 100 countries. 

We recognize that this process may have been challenging at times for our patients and realize how important it is for you to know when your replacement device will arrive. We are striving to do better and sincerely apologize for the frustration this voluntary recall has created. In June, our CEO Frans van Houten and Chief Business Leader Roy Jakobs explained how we’re responding to the recall and some of the issues that impact timelines. I wanted to share some additional information on what makes this voluntary recall different and what we’re changing based on patient feedback. 

To deliver safe and effective therapy devices as quickly as possible, our plan is guided by patient needs, specifically the prescribed care established between patients and their doctors and fulfilled by Durable Medical Equipment (DME) providers.

This means that instead of a first-come, first-serve system that you often experience and expect when ordering online, we have a highly personalized order process that depends on: 

•  Access to patient prescribed settings
•  Supply availability and manufacturing capacity 

We need these prescribed settings because a CPAP is a medical device and cannot be sold without a valid prescription (the FDA describes a CPAP as “a prescription non- invasive ventilatory device”). Therefore, if we do not have your prescribed settings, we will be reaching out to you in the coming weeks with information and instructions on how we can obtain them. 

Working with third party labs, we’ve tested 60,000 devices that have been returned to us by patients and DMEs. The results of these tests are technical, so we’ve created a summary of these studies for patients. You can find all patient updates on our website…

The email goes on to be more technical, though in a way that I'm guessing would be accessible to people who use and understand CPAP machines.

What I am impressed with is the clarity of the writing, the transparency of the intent, and the respect that the company seems to be showing for its customers.

It is an Eye-Opener … and worth emulating whenever retailers and manufacturers find themselves in a similar position.