Automating Healthcare
Solving business problems with savvy automation
 


Tuition Reimbursement

Business problem
The organizational development (OD) department used a tedious, paper-based process to reimburse employees who used their tuition reimbursement benefit, wasting staff time in both OD and accounts payable (AP). In addition, OD staff had to field constant inquiries from employees about current benefit amounts.

Understanding the process
As always, it was first necessary to understand the full process and decide which parts would benefit from automation:

  • Employee verifies eligibility (review of policy or union contract) and current balance of funds (call or e-mail to OD).
  • Employee submits written form, signed by manager, together with other documentation, to OD.
  • OD verifies eligibility and current balance, completes check request and sends to AP.
  • AP inputs payment to payables system to produce check.

What can be automated?

  • Eligibility and current balance are calculated using defined rules and formulas. These can be combined with employee data for automated calculations.
  • The actual request cannot be automated because various bits of paper must be sent to AP. In theory, this could be automated by scanning documents, but it would not be worth the effort.
  • OD verification of eligibility and current balance can be streamlined, and submission to AP can be automated.
  • AP inputting can be eliminated.

Eligibility and balance (for employees)
To reduce the volume of inquiries from employees and managers to the OD department, we built an employee self-check tool for the intranet. Any employee using this tool is automatically shown their personal status, including any courses submitted and any remaining funds for the current period (shown below).


Tools for OD
OD staff can look up any employee to check eligibility and fund balance, and submit reimbursement requests for payment. The employee lookup process starts as shown below.


A list of matching names is displayed and the correct employee is selected (shown below).


All relevant details for the employee are displayed (shown below).

  • If longevity < 6 months, displayed in bold and red.
  • If scheduled hours < 20, displayed in bold and red.
  • All courses submitted during the current period are displayed in the reimbursement summary.


Selecting "Add Course" (see above) displays the Add Course/Conference screen (shown below).

OD staff can then input details from the paper request submitted by the employee.


Upon "Submit," the details for this employee are refreshed (shown below). More courses can be added until funds are exhausted.


Reports
OD staff can run summary or detail reports using any combination of the variables shown below.


A sample of the detailed report for a nursing unit is shown below (click the image to see the entire report).


[Click the image above to see the full image]


System Maintenance
Reimbursement limits for each contract in each payroll must be set at the beginning of each fiscal year. This can be done one at a time (see below).


Reimbursement limits and period start date can also be updated in a batch process. A form listing all payroll/contract combinations (shown below) is used to select the items to update.


The same batch process has a shortcut for global updates, which is especially useful for updating Period Start Date at the beginning of a new fiscal year (shown below).


Automating payments
Once OD has input the reimbursement request, an automated process takes over.

  • Each Friday morning, a scripted process inputs all reimbursement requests into the Meditech accounts payable system for processing by AP the same day.
  • Notification of counts and dollar totals for the week are simultaneously e-mailed to AP for audit purposes. If there are no new reimbursement requests, an e-mail is sent confirming this.
  • Checks are printed as part of the weekly batch, with no additional work by AP.

Outcomes

  • Employees can easily verify their eligibility and current balance.
  • OD staff verify eligibility and current balance in one place instead of looking up partial data in two systems.
  • OD staff input reimbursement requests using a very quick, simple process.
  • AP staff no longer input anything. From their perspective, the process is fully automated.
  • Although no attempt was made to quantify savings, it is clear that staff time is saved at every step in the process.

Lessons learned

  • Provisions in collective bargaining contracts were a bit more complicated than expected, but we were able to adjust the process.
  • This was an ideal process to automate: clearly defined with solid rules and logic; everyone in the process gained from automation; and, manageable in scope.


Posted 18 November 2008

   


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