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TuitionManager Improves Operational Efficiency and Saves Time for Penn State Health

Penn State Health is a multi-hospital health system serving patients and communities across central Pennsylvania. The system includes Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center in Reading, PA, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Penn State Children's Hospital, Penn State Cancer Institute, and Penn State Health Rehabilitation Hospital (jointly owned with Select Medical), based in Hershey, PA. Penn State Health has more than 1,300 physicians and direct care providers at 78 medical office locations.

The system also has jointly owned health care providers, including Hershey Outpatient Surgery Center, Hershey Endoscopy Center, Horizon Home Healthcare and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute. Penn State Health shares an integrated strategic plan and operations with Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State University's medical school.

Like other top healthcare organizations, Penn State Health offers a very competitive, generous, widely used tuition reimbursement program. Prior to implementing their TuitionManager system, Penn State Health was managing the program manually by paper. We spoke with Danielle Hricak, Human Resources Benefits Specialists, to learn more about Penn State Health's tuition reimbursement process prior to implementing TuitionManager and the substantial benefits from replacing their manual process with TuitionManager's automated software.

The biggest benefit is time saving. Time. Time, time, time the thing that none of us have, but TuitionManager has just saved us.

Danielle Hricak

Human Resources, Benefits Specialist

The Challenge

When asked to tell us about Penn State Health's process of managing their tuition reimbursement program prior to TuitionManager, Danielle said "it was by paper. Painstakingly."

Danielle went on to explain the painstaking paper-process and how long the average application took to process. "I wish I could accurately describe it," began Danielle. "With normal (paper-based) tuition reimbursement, whenever we would get an application, we would print it out, file it, and then when the grades and zero-balance bills came in, we had to go pull the file and do the calculations. I think for one person, assuming we had everything we needed, which is always the crutch there, probably a solid ten minutes per app. And we have a ton. We started in May 2018, in that time there have been over 5,000 applications. So, you can imagine ten minutes times all of those people. It's a lot." It certainly is a lot. Over 830 hours or twenty weeks of work.

When asked if she could estimate how long the process takes now after implementing TuitionManager, Danielle said that the process takes "less than half" the time it took previously. " Because everything is already within the system. At worst the only thing we have to ask for is if they forgot to attach something. The processing itself, looking at the bills, maybe two minutes," concluded Danielle. "Yeah we're happy about it," she added. Danielle also recalled just how tedious the process was prior to implementing TuitionManager. "I remember when I started the one girl just had stacks of files on her desk." In addition to the tuition administrators being overwhelmed, Penn State Health employees were not happy with how long it took to be reimbursed. "Our employees were upset because their paycheck came and it (their reimbursement money) wasn't on there." Danielle remembered how "having to field those questions" was taxing for the program administrators.

And those overwhelmed administrators were even more overwhelmed at the end of semesters. Danielle said that "May and December are bananas. Every other time it is somewhat manageable." In order to get their work done during those peak tuition reimbursement times, administrators were having to work overtime and put in extra hours to get the work done. The peak time periods added significant stress to administrators who had other responsibilities besides just tuition reimbursement. "None of us are exclusively dedicated to tuition," acknowledged Danielle.

The burden of having to put aside other work and work extra hours in order to focus on just tuition reimbursement was a problem that Penn State Health wanted to correct for its tuition administrators. As a result, the organization began looking for a vendor to help manage its robust tuition reimbursement program.

The Solution

Given the amount of work and strain it was putting on its tuition administrators Penn State Health began looking for a vendor to administer its tuition reimbursement program. "We were looking into more of a full service so that way we didn't have to answer any tuition questions," recalled Danielle.

However, after doing the research and speaking with several different vendors, Penn State Health found that TuitionManager was a much more affordable option. Furthermore, because of its excellent functionality and capabilities, Penn State Health felt like they could internally manage their tuition program with TuitionManager given the enormous time savings with a new automated process. Being able to maintain control of the process at a fraction of the cost of a full-service option was a viable solution.

The Results

Not only did TuitionManager eliminate the stacks of paper that were burying the Penn State Health tuition administrators' desks, but it has provided huge time savings and improved operational efficiency. Other exceptional benefits from implementing TuitionManager are automated notifications, and powerful reporting & analytics.

Time Savings & Operational Efficiency

Immediately, Penn State Health experienced a huge time savings in their process. The approval of an application took a fraction of the time it did with the manual paper process. Danielle commented that time saving was the biggest benefit of implementing TuitionManager and just how crucial that was for them. "The biggest benefit is time saving. Time. Time, time, time the thing that none of us have, but TuitionManager has just saved us," recalled Danielle. This time saving meant that tuition administrators were capable of handling tuition reimbursement and their additional job responsibilities, even during the busy end of semester periods. It was a breath of fresh air for the administrators who were feeling overwhelmed and buried in paperwork.

The process became significantly more streamlined and efficient. There are substantially less interruptions with TuitionManager. Danielle explained how TuitionManager has saved not only time, but also greatly improved operational productivity. "We can get through a lot more without needing to get up, go to the printer, pull files, do this that and the other. It's also much, much easier to just go to reports and hit payroll report and it just runs instantly with all those statuses, so that our employees know that they're going to get paid on their next paycheck." The ability for Penn State Health employees to be able to see the status of their applications is not only empowering to them, but also eliminates the taxing follow-up emails and calls from upset employees that were expecting a reimbursement payment. Employees always have access to their TuitionManager account and are able to check their application statuses anytime from any device. This transparency eliminates time-consuming status update inquiries or the need to try to track down if a paper document was turned in or not and having to physically search for it.

Automated Notifications

The automated notifications that provide confirmation when an application is submitted, edited, pre-approved, approved for payment, or rejected also make for a more efficient process. "Automated emails are amazing, it saves us so much time of having to answer emails of when am I going to receive my reimbursement," explained Danielle. TuitionManager automatically sends email notifications letting employees know that an application status has changed, or an application was edited. These automatic email notifications are a huge time savings for tuition administrators and provide confirmation and up-to-date information to sometimes anxious employees.

Powerful Reporting & Analytics

Reporting and analytics are critical to understanding information and insights into program benefits. TuitionManager's reporting tool allows administrators to report on every data field within the system. Access to this information allows administrators to extract meaningful insights regarding their tuition reimbursement program, which can be used to better understand and improve the benefit and participation.

Danielle appreciates being able to build reports as needed to obtain the information that she needs for her leadership team. "My senior leadership team asked for reporting on all of our tuition programs. Because our health system is growing, they were looking to extend the tuition benefits to our new hospitals, and with that they needed the information from our current population, so it was easy for me to find," recalled Danielle.

Furthermore, Danielle described how useful TuitionManager's dashboards have been for her. "The dashboards are awesome. They are basic but gives me what I need, explained Danielle. "Going to see year-to-date payments, it's so nice to be at the tip of your fingers. Because before we would have to go through every single time, we sent a file to our payroll department, and add all of that up. And we send them every two weeks, so we would have to go back at least twenty-six times, to look to see what we sent, crazy," she exclaimed. Not only has the automated process saved Penn State Health important time, but so has the reporting capabilities and dashboards. All of this time savings makes for very happy tuition administrators. Danielle was excited to say that "we're happy about it!" TuitionManager has been an outstanding solution for Penn State Health.

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