Ideation and Design

Our research helped define the landscape we’re working with, and the UX team and other project members were now speaking the same language. It was now time to compare notes and formalize ideas.

It’s important to recognize that ideas come during the exploration phase of a project. Each team member needs to have individual time to reflect. We may share reflections during the discovery phase but each participant in the research should keep their own sets of notes and ideas.

To me, the ideation meeting is a moderated collaborative experience where each participant brings to the table well-constructed thoughts to present to the team. It’s a place for argumentation and challenges. Ideas are eventually accepted, refined, and bundled in concepts, recommendations, and features ideas.

Ideas need time to mature, so, whenever possible, I like to organize several sessions so the participants can go away and refine their concepts by looking for additional validation or by looking for leaner ways to obtain a result.

We would often work on a project in a team of two or three over relatively extended periods of time because we tended to work on numerous other projects at the same time. We had organized a “creative relay” where we would take over each other’s work to evolve it further.


 

Key objectives:

 

The research and the listing of requirements gave us a good foundation to think about features. In fact we had features ideas for every problem and requirement we listed and this can be confusing. So as we were about to start designing we though necessary to boil down all the problems we were trying to solve to the most essential ones. We got down to two: 

1

Preventing or reducing staffer’s or provider’s interactions with other schedules and calendars while scheduling an online appointment.

Proposed solutions:

- External calendars importation
- Identify gaps within imported calendars to define online presence
- Quick schedule adjustments
- Dynamic availability, finding first availability

 

2

Reducing the number of transactions necessary to confirm an appointment.

Proposed solutions:

- Appointment negotiation over the phone and live scheduling options
- Patient declares upcoming availability
- Dynamic choice of consultation
- Auto assignment to first availability


 

Proposed features

 

Encourage patients and practices to talk together

Our current medical platform didn't allow for patients and providers to make contact prior the first appointment. But a workflow (dysfunctional) allowed for asynchronous negotiation. 

It’s standard behavior for patients to contact a practice in order to set an appointment. Until we have a live scheduling feature offered to patients it will be more efficient for patients to negotiate an appointment over the phone or by chat. Practices must have the option to be called or to call the patient back.

We propose to develop a “call for appointment” option which allow patients to call the practice from the application during business hours. A gateway number may be used. Alternatively a “Call Back” option may be offered by practices.

Phone appointment requests made to customer service: administrator tool

A large proportion of patients call customer service to ask for a doctor’s appointment. Customer service needs to be able to put the patient in the appropriate workflow so customer service isn't brokering the appointment. 

To support "Phone Only" appointments we find essential to provide a "Call Back" option so providers and practices can handle the appointment. Customer service would only help a patient choose the appropriate providers and formulate the request.

Availability Widget: increasing odds for an early schedule match

To optimize their chance of settling an appointment during the first round of negotiation, reduce wait time and abandonment, we propose developing a feature - a widget - to declare upcoming availability. Availability would be rounded to morning, afternoon and evening. 

The widget could be used by patients, but also by practices who take calls. The feature would prevent the practice to take external notes. An the input would be matched with upcoming availability.

Staffer role

Scheduling is generally delegated to staffers so it is essential to create user roles.

Staffers must be able to manage multiple schedules to multiple providers. This will require the development of workflows for group management so a staffer can represent a group of providers and a provider can create a staffer. 

The staffer must have limited access to the service and should have access to PHI (personal health information).


 

A Scheduler, not a calendar

 

Current calendar

Our current calendar is like most calendars online: it provides a global view of all activities in a day, a week or a month. It was designed to plan availability on the fly by slots representing a duration matching the appointment duration specified as preferences by the provider.

Our calendar is a “Classic” online calendar that is a sortable table designed to let users know the date and time of events than spans from now to infinity.


focusing on availability

Focus on availability

The scheduling system should focus on the time that’s immediately relevant to the user and hide the information that’s not relevant to the intended purpose.

In a classic calendar, availability is defined by empty spaces. But for scheduling, empty spaces—or available spaces—should be the visually highlighted areas of focus.

While importing an external calendar the user could let the system feel the gaps with availability, then the user would edit availability.

Below: an early series of illustration about focusing on the empty space that drove a significant part of the design
 

Calendar syncing

Calendar syncing is an essential aspect of this project. The ease of use of the scheduler relies the importation of external calendar.

The system must be able to deduct the empty spaces between calendar entries and make them blocks of available appointment slots.

The blocks are editable and can define actual available appointment time.

The blocks could eventually be exported and included in other calendars used for evaluating planning work activities. If the calendar can’t be imported to another system, assuming these systems can export calendars the user can then consolidated all calendars on a third party application (provider we talked to use their phone to consolidate their different schedules).

Sorting by event types and agenda style view: modes

Classic calendars can toggle calendars and search entries. Our scheduling calendar must be able to display selected types of entries as well as toggling and muting imported calendars. Different contexts will require different focus. 

This feature would allow to define modes: at least a scheduling mode which would simplify the interface and let the user focus on availability only.

Day agenda view -  adjusting information displayed to the task

Short time range actions = drag, hover and drop interactions

Negotiating appointment often occurs in a short time range. The first appointment availability is most of the time followed by others in the next day. A patient should define a provider and period of time suitable for appointment. The system should choose the most suitable times based on the first available appointment slot.

The interface must accommodate this by providing some fluidity and a Drag, Hover and Drop type of interactions when attributing appointment slots to clients.  

Appointment slots allocation for simultaneous requests

The system must be designed to accommodate many users looking at the same schedule almost at the same time. The system must address all the users - including practices organizing appointment - have a choice between appointment options without limiting an other user choice. 

User should be given a limited number of options they can refresh. The options should also be refreshed by the system on time-out.

An algorithm should establish an acceptable between an array of offers. For instance: if three appointments options are given they shouldn’t be three consecutive appointments, there should be a time gap in between.

Concept proposed to engineers to plan for a sorting algorythm

Giving appointment slots a value

Also the number of appointment slots proposed may vary based on the demand predictions at any given time. We want to optimize options but minimize wait time before the first appointment offer.

An appointment slot has value. The earliest spot isn’t always the most desirable. An appointment slot at peak consultation hours (generally around work hours) is more valuable than an appointment mid morning on a weekday. The gaps between two appointments on a provider schedule also has value - we want to minimize these gaps so providers have a better incentive working with this system than others.

The allocation algorithm needs to learn to identify the value of the available appointment slots and sort them properly.

Exclusive offer and appointment “shelf life”

The appointment proposed by a practice or a provider should be “exclusive” to a patient for a limited period of time to prevent conflicts with other appointments.

The appointment shelf life should be defined by user preference.

Modifying an exclusive appointment should require a justification sent to the client. Past the exclusivity period the appointment slot could be reclaimed for another appointment.

The appointment proposal should expire within a given period defined either by a time following the appointment creation or a time preceding the time appointment. This should also be a user preference which should be editable case by case.

Initial diagram produced to explain the workflow for the states of an appointment


 

Opportunities:

 

Treatment planning and care coordination

The system could be reversed to organize a patient’s activity with multiple providers. The patient would import her calendar and a care coordinator / counselor would organize consultation 

In-person consultations

There would be few differences between this online consultation scheduling system and a system that supports in person appointment. Location would be a new parameter to manage, for providers - working in multiple location - and for patients who are generally looking for the convenience of short commute.

multi-provider selection

The system should support search by specialty and support the choice among many providers for the same appointment slot. On the practice side this could allow a fair distribution of the work, on the patient side more choice criteria available (ex: a user would only want a female provider, multiple provider options would increase the odds of an earlier appointment.

Instead of selecting a specific provider the user would select and specialty and compare providers based on availability