Meet Our Members: Katie Stevens, Vice President, Operations of Reliable Medical Supply

Published in Complex Rehab on March 10, 2020

imageMeet Katie Stevens, Vice President, Operations for Reliable Medical Supply! Reliable Medical Supply has been a U.S. Rehab member since 2010. Katie answered some of our questions about her role at the company and how she helps Reliable Medical Supply evolve and grow every day while staying true to the company’s employee-centric culture and customer-driven service.

Please describe your role and responsibilities with Reliable Medical Supply (RMS).
My role at RMS is to provide oversite and direction across all operational functions for each location while supporting the company’s rapid growth. My focus is on identifying operational efficiencies, helping our teams strategize around market share expansion, encouraging the development of our managers, and reinvesting our growth into the people that make up this organization. We are an organization in the midst of evolution, and the goal here is to be better every day while holding true to the legacy of this organization and keeping intact the employee-centric culture that is so very important to our CEO, Debbie Kalk. In the past year, the company has more than doubled its geographic footprint and our growth looks to be accelerating in 2020. 
 
Can you tell us more about your background and how you originally got connected to the industry? 
I first joined this industry as a Customer Service Representative, working in what I thought was going to be a very temporary role while finishing my dissertation and deciding next steps. I had previously been employed in a marketing role in the music industry and was desirous of a career path that was more rewarding and had a more positive impact on the world. In a very short period of time, I absolutely fell in love with the CRT industry and the impact of what we do for people’s quality of life. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the giggles and smiles of a pediatric chair dispensed or the tears of joy from one of those early clients who, upon receiving her new power chair, was excited to take her dog around the block after far too many weeks without mobility. Over the course of my 14 years in the industry, I’ve had the great fortune and pleasure of working in various roles and seeing different elements of this incredibly complex process, but it is always the impact on our clients that is at the core of my day-to-day.
 
What are some of the growing pains you’ve experienced in the industry, and how have you overcome them? 
As technology has improved, reimbursement has remained stagnant, or has even been clawed back, presenting a real problem for manufacturers and providers in this space. The industry has been appropriately focused on policy to protect our business models, but I believe that continued efforts to expand coverage to new technologies is important. I also believe that end-user advocacy is more important than ever, and I am excited to see increasing engagement from wheelchair users. I think that advocacy, the likes of which were seen in the sixties and nineties, will be important in gaining access to the best technologies out there, and I am fortunate to have been employed by organizations who place priority on supporting this. 

We’re also all aware that many of the industry’s leading ATPs are nearing retirement, and with that workforce, we will lose so many years of expertise if we do not have solid succession planning. This is why RMS is making significant investments in ATP apprenticeship and recruiting. Our goal is to highlight the significant opportunity and reward of this career path to new, young professionals entering the marketplace, and Debbie’s team has done a fantastic job of building out a formal program. We believe the future of CRT will be driven by the best-in-class ATPs, which is why building the best coalition of ATPs is a top priority at RMS. 

How does Reliable Medical Supply value their customers? 
RMS understands that service quality and response time are critical to the customer experience. Aside from having incredibly talented and tenured ATPs who are encouraged to focus entirely on client outcomes, RMS has invested in an impressively robust service model. Emergency service is provided 24/7, and clients with urgent needs have access to these resources at all times. Client appointments are handled swiftly, and no customer is left to wait unnecessarily due to heavy schedules. Growth at RMS is handled very carefully and deliberately, and attention to response times to any area considered serviceable is an important consideration. In every conversation around strategy, the customer care model and ability to maintain high quality service is at the center. 
 
What sets Reliable Medical Supply apart? 
This is a growing organization that still has a mom-and-pop feel to the culture. Debbie has built a team around the notion that the organization is a family, and she walks the walk as it relates to valuing the whole lives of employees. At the center of every decision is the impact on the team, and this is something that the leadership here practices with sincerity and conviction.  

We are growing rapidly through new locations, as well as strategic acquisitions. When evaluating new hires and acquisitions, we pride ourselves on providing a custom solution for our partners. While we are a growing company, it is very important to us that every potential partner understands and appreciates the RMS culture which is built around flexibility and compassion to every situation. It’s not one-size-fits-all. 
 
What is your “why” for working in this industry? 
I am incredibly lucky to work in an industry where our daily actions can have such a clear and profound impact on the lives of our customers. Along the way, I’ve been so inspired and invigorated by the passion exhibited by the people who have been attracted to this line of work. For 14 years, I’ve had the opportunity to show up to work alongside people who are passionate, caring, creative, and dedicated. It isn’t always an easy industry, and it isn’t without its frustrations, but the reward is far greater than anything else I’ve ever been a part of.

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