Common User Interface Issues
We have seen a number of patterns in the user interface and design of various systems. The below recommendations are general best practices that we have observed and heard about from users of these systems - where there are quotes, these are from actual system end-users.
Where possible, consider the below when deciding between vendors, or if you already work with a vendor, consider sending them these recommendations as suggested changes.
Simplify forms
The public is repeatedly coming back to vaccine scheduling sites to check availability and find information. Even small improvements in how forms collect information can greatly improve the site's user experience.
    Only collect information relevant to where the user is in the scheduling process. For example:
      When determining vaccine eligibility, don't collect insurance information if it is not necessary to determine eligibility
      If your system is not pre-registering people and there are no available appointments, don't ask for eligibility information
    Let people create accounts to avoid having to re-enter eligibility and other information each time they check appointment availability.
    Links to schedule appointments should be unique to recipient or enforce eligibility requirement in some way. Generic links to scheduling systems can easily be shared and create logistical problems at vaccination locations.
    Language choice should be part of the form. Systems should use language choice for emails, texts, and/or calls to people.
Improve communication
Given the highly fragmented systems users face in many jurisdictions, clear and regular communication can often address users' highest level of concerns and relieve anxiety. Clearer communication can also prevent users from feeling like they need to register multiple times, or in multiple places.
    Use a system to communicate with people after they register: email, text, calls.
    Include a process for people to see where they stand in line within the system. Even if further back in line, just being able to see where they stand within the system lets the user know that they are not being ignored, forgotten, or lost.
    Ensure there is one location people can visit and have that information updated daily.
      "Make it so everyone could have access to the same information. Because I know people who have gotten vaccines because they knew to check certain things."
      "I think every social service office needs to be telling people. I think it needs to be on billboards on the more impoverished side of town.... The people that can afford to jump the line...they're getting their vaccines."
    Often, the patient receiving the vaccine may not be the primary point of contact for the appointment. There are a myriad of reasons for this: accessibility issues, lack of technical fluency, language barriers, lack of resources (e.g. laptop, smartphone, or even time). Allow a secondary point of contact to be easily established.
      "Many don't have the mobility in their hands to do this.... [One person the vaccine hunter group is helping] has arthritis in her fingers. They're bent over...There is just no way that she could type! Even phone calls. Like she can't really get to her phone calls because her fingers just don't allow it. "
      "The translation of the sites: horrendous. No-one is proofreading them. No-one is checking the level of Spanish. No-one is checking the accuracy."
      "[My mother's] tech-fluency is not that great...she couldn't [schedule an appointment] herself."
    Unfortunately, simply having a website is insufficient. To maximize outreach, especially to underserved communities and those disproportionately affected, we recommend having both a digital presence and a call center for people to contact for help. In addition, offering multiple channels of communication (web, email, text, call) and allowing users to select their preferences has the greatest chance of minimizing accessibility issues. There are still cases where these channels may fail, and more proactive methods may be necessary. For example, San Francisco Health Network, the public healthcare system for the City and County of San Francisco, offers walk-in vaccination sites for qualifying individuals. Thus, individuals who have problems jumping through the various hoops still have an option if they cannot find the help to overcome resource barriers.
      "I gave up doing it online at that point...and then I started pursuing phone calls and that is how I ultimately got my appointment.... I called individual sites."
    Another example of proactive outreach methods is United in Health in San Francisco, an academic-community-city partnership organization which actually goes door-to-door to collect information of people specifically in their community. The information collected is then used to prioritize and reserve slots for walk-up appointments at their vaccination site.
Use pre-registration
Pre-registering, especially in a way that results in a single centralized queue, often reduces operational complexity and results in more positive user experiences.
    There is value to any user to know that they are captured by a queue and not overlooked, even if their turn in the queue is not immediate. Thus, we recommend allowing users to pre-register even if they aren't eligible yet under the current eligibility phase. Clear communication about expected vaccine availability, even if weeks or months away, can ease anxiety. A more comprehensive queue also provides maximum visibility to the jurisdiction to understand and plan for the needs of its population.
    During pre-registration process, collect the minimum set of information necessary. We recommend collecting preferred language, preferred method of contact, and basic demographic information. This will maximize the chance of a successful outreach should the jurisdiction need to contact the patient. By proactively collecting basic demographic information, the jurisdiction can monitor for accessibility/equity issues or concerns.
    To the extent possible, obscure the complexity of scheduling from the user. Some jurisdictions have moved away from a "first come first serve" model (which puts the entire onus of scheduling on the patient) and instead have embraced a "centralized outreach" model where the jurisdiction works directly with the provider to fill appointment slots from a centralized queue. This change has been successful at minimizing scheduling issues. For example, in New Mexico, a significant percentage of providers have opted into the State's centralized system, and patients in New Mexico have largely been shielded from the frustrating experiences of navigating the myriad of websites and disparate sets of information in their hunt for a vaccination appointment.
      "The difference between all the different sites is mind-boggling...Each one has its own system."
Last modified 7mo ago
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