Walking out of the hospital, excited to finally be freed of the midnight vitals and the doctors rounding at 5am, you very quickly realized you’ll now need medical supplies. Beyond that, you’ll need to deal with insurance, medical supply companies, prescriptions and doctors.
This is my very simplified version of how people get ostomy supplies.
Ostomy supplies usually require a prescription from your doctor (whether it is your gastrointestinal doctor or another specialist), particularly if you plan to get supplies through insurance. Doctors are often able to send your prescriptions directly to these supply companies, much like your doctor can call in a medicine prescription to a pharmacy. Doctors can also write paper prescriptions which you can bring into a pharmacy, which also sometimes carry ostomy gear! It feels kind of silly walking into a pharmacy with a paper prescription – but from my own experience, they have taken it!
There are many, many, many different medical suppliers (two of which I have used are Edgepark and McKesson). A quick Google search will give you an endless list of companies. There are a few benefits to using a larger supplier, one being the variety of supplies available to you. Often they have catalogs you can browse through to find the right supplies! Companies like this also have people who specialize in these products – it’s their job to know how they work and what they are good for. It is always a great idea to tell them your specific needs. They can help guide you in the right direction if you aren’t really sure what will work well for you. One downside to ordering this way, whether it be over the phone or online, is the shipping time. I have been very fortunate that McKesson ships quickly (usually I recieve supplies 2-3 days after ordering). Most companies do not ship their items this quickly, though. Make sure to take into account the supplies you have left and how long they will last you. If you have trouble keeping track of your supplies, an app like OstoBuddy may help you!
Like I mentioned before, you can walk into some pharmacies and medical supply stores and get ostomy supplies. The benefit of this is that you get your supplies right then and there – no waiting. I have used this method when running *extremely* low on supplies (I am really bad at keeping track of my supplies too, guys). The downside is they might not always carry the brands or type that you are looking for, simply because they probably don’t have enough space to store all of the different ostomy things you can try!
Your insurance will determine what supplies and how much you can get. I had asked on Facebook and Instagram your methods of getting supplies, and one person brought up a great point. Sometimes insurance quite won’t cover everything you need, and you need to buy “booster bags”. This means buying the extra bags (or supplies) out-of-pocket when you can’t get everything you need through insurance. Oddly enough, my insurance will only cover 25 barrier wipes per month, and I like ones that come in a box of 50. I have resorted to buying the wipes out-of-pocket rather than using wipes I know don’t work for me. Some people may purchase all of their supplies in this method, and a good website I have found is StomaBags.com. This website does not require a prescription because you are the one purchasing them fully. I have also used websites like Vitality Medical and Amazon.com in the past.
All of this can seem extremely overwhelming to someone trying to figure out a “normal” with an ostomy. Figuring out insurance, medical suppliers, who covers what, how much can you get of this, what supplies you even think will work… its just a bit too much for someone recovering from surgery at the same time. Many hospitals have case managers whose main job is to assist you with this. They are great at coordinating between insurance and companies, working out the kinks before you even get home from the hospital. They often try to ensure supplies are delivered to your home before you even get there. If this isn’t possible, hospitals will often try to supply you ostomy bags and accessories to take home with you.
Figuring all of this out is certainly stressful. A great idea before you even get surgery, of course if this is a surgery you know is coming, is to order samples from different companies. Just about any company who makes ostomy bags will send you free samples to try. If you order some of these prior to hospitalization and bring these with you for surgery, you may expedite the process of figuring out what works!