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Designing out the need for training in a staff-facing app

Jason Hodge, Lead Service Designer for the national booking service, looks at how they had to quickly design an app that COVID-19 vaccination site staff could easily and effectively use to check in the hundreds of people arriving daily to get their jab.

The ‘Check a vaccination appointment’ service is an iPad based self-contained Web App for vaccination site stewards.  It records when a person with a coronavirus vaccination appointment has arrived at a site, whether early, on time or late and advises on what they should do next.

Lead Service Designer Jason Hodge in his garden

It also passes information to assessment clinicians so they can transfer data to other clinical systems eventually resulting in a vaccination occurrence being written to the National Immunisation Management System (NIMS).

On the back of James Higgott’s Behind the scenes at COVID-19 vaccination centres, I wanted to expand a little on one of the digital components we called the Check in App – its full name being Check a vaccination appointment app.

Managing the vaccination journey

Time wasn’t on our side as plans were rapidly being formulated on how the sites and the people within them would operate. Staff were being recruited across the country as site managers, stewards, assessment clinicians and vaccinators. 

On collaboratively mapping and reviewing the full digital service for the National Booking Service (NBS), it quickly became apparent that we’d need more than one interface to manage and measure the flow of citizens through their vaccination journey.

We needed a specific and consistent data capture that was certain of its outcomes when dealing with a person’s arrival at a vaccination site, enabling us to measure the success of vaccination events, feeding back into systems that could then inform the citizen facing side in order to properly handle the display and notification of progress and changes.

Design led by research

In consideration of these thousands of recruits who needed to hit the ground running, we had to ask ourselves some serious questions:

  • would staff members know how to react when rejecting citizens?
  • would staff members all react in the same way?
  • would they feel uncomfortable in this position?
  • would staff members be in danger of abuse?
  • would data quality suffer as a result?

We spoke to a cross section of staff who were going to be stationed in these vaccination sites. We found that many were from a face-to-face customer service background and comfortable rejecting people who had not booked or shouldn’t have attended something for a number of reasons.

However, we still weren’t certain that the notional interface we were given as an example of a check-in app was helping, because it put the onus to argue a point on the staff member, without presenting them the right facts. We felt this was a source of potential conflict between staff and the public, so we made the decision to do the hard work required to erase any concerns.

Our resulting principles for 'Check a vaccination appointment' were:

  1. Have zero learning curve - simply no time for training.
  2. De-personalise the reasons for rejection - We want staff to be messengers of information with no personal responsibility for people passing through and we want people to understand that they're being treated fairly for their own safety, whatever the outcome of their visit.
  3. Give staff the facts they need to deal with varying cases - we want staff to feel confident they're dealing with people fairly by helping to guide them through many possible situations.
  4. Record outcomes consistently for data quality purposes - we need accurate data on each stage of the vaccination journey.
  5. Use the NHS Service Manual and design system - we need to adhere to accessibility guidance by using tested components that are within the law.

The supportive interface

It was clear that as soon as we went live, we would have hundreds and then thousands of staff users for whom we didn’t have the luxury of time to train. In fact, there are now over 14,000 live users.

What we did instead was to create an interface that would take staff through each step in their process — informing them on what the situation was, how it was changing and what they should say at each step to the citizens coming through the doors.

Once logged in, staff users first see the situational instruction - for example:  'Ask the person for their date of birth'.

Then they see a prompt that outlines what to say in the situation - this is what they would say out loud to the citizen.

This is all tied together in a sequence to ensure the safe passage of all those with a vaccination appointment.

We did produce some documentation on how the service works but as the interface is self explanatory, the documentation didn't need to be so exhaustive.

The outcome

Since going live, the check-in app is now dealing with approximately 49% of all coronavirus appointments digitally, not just at large vaccination sites, but in community pharmacies and some GP surgeries. The rest are still using paper but are being converted daily.

Early survey results revealed an opening satisfaction score amongst users to be in the region of average/good, and continual improvements are still being made. There have been zero mission critical faults.

Related subjects

The national booking service is helping millions of people schedule their life-saving COVID-19 vaccinations. James Higgott, Lead Product Manager, gives an insider’s view on how we created the staff-facing products that make up this service and solved some teething problems along the way.


Last edited: 22 December 2021 11:37 am