Tech advancement doesn’t mean patients lose personal touch

Debra Bilek on playground with familyFor the past seven and a half years, Debra Bilek has taken pride in the fact that she is the first one patients see.

As a patient service representative at Carle on Curtis, Bilek (pictured with short blonde hair) helps these patients when they are sick, worried, confused. She interacts with them, gets to know them as much as she can, and, ultimately, provides insight into what they are about to experience.

So when Carle began increasing check-ins via computerized kiosk, she and her colleagues had a few questions.

How could the kiosks simulate the treatment she and her colleagues provided the patients in a time of need? What would become of her role—would it still be relevant and necessary?

The answers, in a short amount of time, surprised her.

In their new role, PSRs are up from behind the desk and standing alongside the kiosks. They greet patients and escort them to the nearest available kiosk. They then go through the check-in together and, once finished, to waiting area.

Soon Bilek noticed the kiosks were actually faster, especially on weekends. Convenient Care lines used to be to the door at times. Now patients at Curtis move through the check-in under a minute—barring the need for more information.

She realized they could actually enhance the integrity of information with kiosks. Before patients answered questions verbally. This put out names, addresses and sometimes more information within earshot of others. Now check-ins can occur in silence.

All-in-all, Bilek believes this new method of greeting patients will enhance her role.

Her motivation gets back to one simple notion.

“We’re up, and we’re right beside the patient,” Bilek said. “I can still talk with them, and they can still talk with me. This is one more way in which Carle is trying to be there for the patient.

“And that’s why I love my job. I love the patients.”

Any time a change occurs, especially one so apparent to both front-line employees and patients, it can seem abrupt. But in the 44 years that Cheryl Staske has spent at Carle, very little surprises her about change. As Patient Access director for the last 20 years, she responds to change regularly.

So when technology began emphasizing a new way forward and check-in lines kept increasing, she knew processes needed to adapt, too.

Not only does Staske want to achieve a new goal by the end of the year, she wants PSRs to remain engaged more with patients. Thus far, she's encouraged on both fronts.

Just a year ago, kiosk check-ins occurred only 25 to 30 percent of the time. Already this number is up to 60 percent. Staske believes the goal to get to 80 percent within a year seems reasonable.

“I’ve told staff all along that they are my ears. They are my eyes,” Staske said. “We want the patient to know that we really do care about them from the moment we greet them.”