By Lauren Spigel, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator
If you missed our last three blog posts in this series on human centered design, you can learn about what human centered design is here, read a case example of how we build empathy with health works in Nepal , and see how we’ve used prototyping to test a new monitoring and evaluation dashboard in Benin.
Our final post is going to explore the concept that your project is never complete; even after you launch, it’s important to continue to get feedback. In this post we’ll share an example of how we’ve iterated on our software based on feedback from health workers and ministry officials in Benin.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Benin Ministry of Health issue a country-wide immunization schedule that recommends when children should receive their immunizations, beginning from the moment they are born and lasting through the first year of life. Health workers in urban clinics manage hundreds of children’s schedules using paper records. Keeping track of which children are due for which vaccine during any given vaccination session is a time-consuming task.
Parents of these children lead busy lives and often live far from the clinic. It takes hours out of their day to bring their child to vaccination sessions. While parents value vaccines, health workers don’t always communicate clearly to parents about when to come back to the clinic for the child’s next vaccination. A direct consequence of this is that children often miss their appointments.
Our Solution: Callback List 1.0
Clinics that use VaxTrac to record childhood immunization data have an advantage: as long as children are registered in the VaxTrac system, the system can automatically generate a list of children that are due for upcoming appointments. This can save health workers from several hours of paperwork each week.
Our team of software engineers saw this as an opportunity and developed a basic callback list. The first version of the callback list pulled a list of children that were due for an upcoming appointment along with basic information, such as date of birth, village and contact information.
But health workers weren’t using it. We wanted to know why.
Back to the Drawing Board: Stay Responsive to User Needs through Iteration
Technology is meant to change over time. VaxTrac’s software engineers like to remind our team that the software is never finished; it’s constantly evolving and adapting to user needs.
When we began developing our mobile (Android)-based system, we brought health workers together to get their feedback on what they wanted from a callback list feature. We used a number of human centered design methods to elicit feedback, such as prototyping [link to prototype blog], brainstorming lists of what they do during vaccination sessions, and breaking into groups to sketch out what they wanted the callback list to look like.
We asked them to create the callback list over again from scratch. We asked guided questions: Is any of the information available on the callback list useful? If so, what is it used for? What other information should it include? How would they like to see the callback list organized? What rules should the callback list follow? How long should a child stay on the list?
Having health workers sketch their answers to these questions helped all of us think through these abstract questions together.
We found key insights:
- Health workers were using the callback list, but not in the way that we had originally intended. Instead of using it to contact the parents of children who were due for upcoming vaccinations, they used it to track down children who had missed an appointment.
- Phone numbers change often so we needed to make it easier for them to update parents’ contact information.
- In order to be more useful, the callback list would need to be interactive, allowing health workers to sort the information in a variety of ways.
Hearing the health workers’ perspectives helped us rethink the purpose of the callback list and how to redesign it.
Build, Do, Learn, Repeat: VaxTrac’s Philosophy on Iteration
Build: Our software engineers took our learnings from the user feedback session and went to work on building a new and improved callback list. In addition to the callback list, we created a defaulter list, providing health workers with a list of patients that have missed their appointment. We also made both lists sortable by any category (village, date of birth, sex, date of appointment, etc.) And lastly, we made it easier to update contact information.
Do: After our software engineers updated the callback and defaulter lists, we made sure health workers received adequate training on how to use it. Our Benin-based team visited clinics for additional training.
Learn: After a few months of using the new callback list, we held a focus group with health workers to learn more about what they thought of the different VaxTrac features, including the callback list. We learned that health workers would like to be able to sort by the mother’s name in addition to sorting by the other categories. We also learned that health workers would like a way for the callback list to help them contact parents of children who are due for upcoming vaccination sessions.
Repeat: Each time we add new features and users, we get new perspectives. All of the feedback that we’ve gotten from health workers have helped us make our callback list and defaulter list more user-friendly. But we’re not done yet! We are currently conducting a study to assess the possibility of incorporating an appointment reminder feature to the callback and defaults lists, so health workers can use the system to contact parents directly, possibly through SMS or Interactive Voice Response (IVR).
Once we learn everything we can, our cycle will repeat again.
The more we iterate, the stronger our product becomes because it’s based on feedback from the people who use our system. While it can be daunting to go back to the drawing board, adding iteration into your project plan from the beginning can save you time and resources down the line.
We’ve embraced the philosophy that our software is never finished. And we can’t wait to see how far it’ll take us.