DaVita plays to its strengths with new service, new leader

By: Sharlene Johnson Friday March 28, 2014 0 comments Tags: DaVita, DaVita Rx, Denver, Javier Rodriguez, Josh Golomb, Kent Thiry, Paladina Health

By Sharlene Johnson


Davita logoDENVER--When you're already one of the largest companies in your field, what do you do for an encore? If you're DaVita, the kidney dialysis division of DaVita Healthcare Partners, Inc., you spin your expertise into a whole new business.

"DaVita's history is in kidney care, but we're trying to bring the stuff we're really good at to other markets as well," says Josh Golomb, who joined the company in 2004 and became part of a team tasked with finding a way to both improve patient outcomes and boost the bottom line.

The result was DaVita Rx, a full-service pharmacy center specializing in medication services for kidney patients, who often have multiple prescriptions but may not feel well enough to drive themselves to the pharmacy or wait in line for a consultation. Launched in 2005, the pharmacy/call center extends DaVita's considerable experience with renal disease into a whole new arena, where it's now generating some $500 million in annual revenues.

"We deliver either to the patient's clinic or to their home. When they call in, they can get all the advice they need from folks who deeply understand kidney disease, both the biology of it and the psychology of being in dialysis 10 hours a week," said Golomb, now president of DaVita Rx and of Denver-based Paladina Health, another DaVita HealthCare Partners subsidiary.

Patients who don't refill their medications as prescribed are likely to get a phone call to find out why. Sometimes it's simply a matter of forgetfulness, while others may need advice on coping with side effects. If the barrier is a tight budget, they'll be referred to someone on the financial assistance team.

"A patient who's not taking a drug because of a $10 copay could end up in the hospital, and for our patients that could be a $30,000 hospitalization," says Golomb. "If you can help make sure they get access to that drug, you're giving them a great benefit but also saving taxpayers and insurers a whole lot of money."

Indeed, one peer-reviewed study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases reported that DaVita Rx clients had lower rates of hospitalization and death compared with patients using other pharmacies.

How do you top that? By putting your new expertise in pharmacy to work for a whole new set of patients, of course.

"As DaVita Rx has gotten bigger and bigger, we've realized that a lot of the challenges that our kidney disease patients face are similar to the challenges other chronically ill patients face," Golomb says. "So now we're looking at moving into other conditions that have similar profiles or patients who need similar levels of care."

New leader takes reins

Companies in search of fresh energy often turn to new leaders from outside their own walls. But Javier Rodriguez, newly appointed CEO of DaVita, is about as much of an insider as you could find. He's been with the business since 1998, back when it was known as Total Renal Care, and was there for its rebirth as DaVita under Kent Thiry, who's served as CEO from 1999 until now.

Thiry, still CEO of parent company DaVita Healthcare Partners and co-chairman of its board of directors, is happy to pass the torch to Rodriguez, who he called a "dynamic, decisive leader who has played a key role in DaVita's success."

It's not as if DaVita had any reason to look beyond its own headquarters for talent. After all, this is the company that just received the top rating for innovation in the Health Care Medical Facilities category of Fortune magazine's list of the World's Most Admired Companies--for the fifth year straight.

Rodriguez said he hopes to continue that tradition. "We have a talented team that is dedicated and passionate about building on the strong legacy of innovation and quality care," he says.

"Team" is the operative word. DaVita takes pride in the fact that any one of its 46,000-plus teammates, as employees are called, could dream up the company's next big innovation in patient care or procedures. In fact, everyone is encouraged to post ideas to the internal Eureka Forum, an online message board that can provide quick feedback in the form of a thumbs-up or thumbs-down from colleagues.

Over the past three years, some 700 proposals have been posted and more than a few of them have paid off, including a cost-saving suggestion from a nurse in North Carolina and another bright idea from a dialysis facility administrator in Georgia.

Those and other eureka moments now save DaVita some $3 million a year.

"The future of health care will be challenging and exciting," says Rodriquez. "Our network of physicians and caregivers provides a strong foundation for transforming the delivery of care."
Sharlene Johnson

About the Author: Sharlene Johnson

Sharlene Johnson grew up in a uranium mining camp best escaped through the pages of books. While those dry hills grew little more than sagebrush, they proved fertile ground for an obsession with the written word. Years later, Sharlene lives in a beautiful Colorado town where she writes for national magazines, such as Fitness, Ladies' Home Journal and Parents, as well as for websites and businesses.