UX for vaccine scheduling
Health-Tech / February 25th 2021

The Design of Vaccine Scheduling Systems

Anosha Rahim's profile picture
byAnosha Rahim

This is the first of a series of articles related to health-tech and how important it is. This was made with a partnership with Minerva we worked on the “Buenos Aires Civic Challenge” to answer the question: How important is a good UX to improve healthcare services in developing countries? The deliverables were several articles tackling different topics. Here is the first one of them.

For what seemed like forever, we'd been holding our breath to see a COVID-19 vaccine, but as much as it's exciting to have the vaccines developed, getting them from the lab to the Latin American people is still a gargantuan and multi-fold challenge.

It is an interconnected dance between politics, logistics, budgeting, accessibility, economics, philosophy, engineering, technology, communications and much more. This hassle is an important one, and we believe design plays a critical role in ensuring that after all this running around, people can get the vaccines.

How can we design a user-friendly and accessible vaccine scheduling app to facilitate seamless appointment booking, starting with the elderly?

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As good designers, we start with the users. In most places, senior citizens are among the first users of vaccine scheduling systems. These systems are likely online, so the first question to ask is, how do the elderly in Latin America use technology?

A finding by the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean(ECLAC) shows that a large number of elderly who do have access to technology in their households are still not using it. But then again, this is past data. The recent, never-ending quarantine lockdowns have probably increased technology usage among them(or anyone really).

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The process of opening the vaccine scheduling site, navigating the system, and booking an appointment needs to be intuitive enough to accommodate everyone. For an effective vaccine rollout, any person who needs to book an appointment should be able to do so with the utmost ease so that vaccines are distributed as planned.

However, we have already heard horror stories about vaccine scheduling bottlenecks, double appointments, and vaccines going bad or being administered to whoever is around to prevent expiration. The stakes are high, and if we have managed to create the scientific miracle of a COVID-19 vaccine in record time, then the irony of crumbling scheduling systems is unfortunate.

Sketching a user flow

This is, however, also an opportunity to think about the salient features that will make a vaccine scheduling system usable, accessible, interoperable, and trust-worthy. At a high level, thinking about the user’s journey and finding places to provide support, remove ambiguity, and stratify steps in a logical manner is one place to start.

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This is a sketch of a rough user flow for a vaccine website which takes into account factors such as eligibility, availability, verification, as well as timeline, general information, and support. This is a starting point to scribble out a series of low-fi wireframes to think about what this could look like in an app. The logical next steps would be to put this through a rigorous, iterative UX process for rapid user feedback and prototyping. 

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It is true that the scheduling app is just the tip of the ice-berg. Ultimately, a well-design scheduling app needs to be tailored to the systems it depends upon and the people who interact with it on different fronts, so that the people for whom this vaccine was created, can get it on time.