After nearly 13 years in the pharmacy and 20 years overall at Little Company of Mary Hospital in suburban Chicago, Kevin Rehder still keeps his proverbial ear to the ground-but he's also won crucial respect from the organization's upper reaches.
Rehder, 39, began as a pharmacy technician at 19 years old and continued through his education at the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy, where he received a doctorate in pharmacy in 1989. He rose through the ranks from clinical pharmacist (1990-97) to pharmacy supervisor (1997-98) to pharmacy manager (1998-2001).
"That (gradual path upward) helped me not lose perspective about the smaller parts of the processes," he says. "You don't lose sight of the people on the ground. That can easily happen if you come right into management."
As pharmacy director and patient-safety officer for the past two years, Rehder has needed to cost-justify new technologies and to justify, period, why it was a good thing to give him and his staff the ability to second-guess physicians when calculating dosages.
Jack Faber, vice president of clinical services and corporate compliance, says the pharmacy hard-wired its computer module to keep medication orders within minimum and maximum dosage ranges for higher-risk drugs.
While Rehder and his staff cannot dictate, they do "make strong suggestions to the physicians," says Faber, who has been Rehder's boss for 18 of the past 20 years and once served as pharmacy director. "You certainly would have to have a high degree of their respect to be able to do that. I know Kevin has that."
Little Company of Mary, a 318-bed facility in Evergreen Park, Ill., saved about $250,000 in the past two years due to a pneumatic tube system Rehder championed. The system, which cost $240,000, paid for itself in 21/2 years due to "messenger-type positions" that went unfilled, Rehder says.
He then led efforts to put in place automated distribution machines that helped cut average medication turnaround time, which had dropped from six to four hours with the tube system in place, to less than two hours.
"He's very good at presenting to administration problems and solutions," says Rita Magnuson, who was clinical coordinator at Little Company of Mary from 1987 to 1998 and now works part-time doing value analysis on cost- savings initiatives. "People will accept things because that's the way things have run for a long time, and he will question it. ... (And then) people say, `Oh, yeah, why are we doing that?' "
"He's a very ethical person," Faber says. "He has always kept the best interests of the patient at heart, during some pretty difficult financial times in healthcare."