Seattle was the first major U.S. city to come face to face with the COVID-19 crisis, and learned early on the impact of the illness as it spread quietly due to the lack of testing. In June, as the city began reopening, the need for available testing was greater than ever. But more than test availability, Seattle needed to figure out how to schedule and distribute these tests.
The City of Seattle was two weeks away from launching its first drive through COVID-19 test sites and needed an online tool for patient pre-registration. Coordinating free testing sites involved lots of physical steps: hiring people, finding a test vendor, setting up physical test sites, reaching and communicating with people, etc. The technical component added another layer of complexity: figuring out how to quickly and efficiently schedule the distribution of tests to hopefully thousands of Seattle residents.
USDR partnered with the City of Seattle to help lessen the load of to-dos by managing the technical side of the project. After a brief conversation with Seattle’s Department of Innovation and Performance, USDR volunteers surveyed several appointment scheduler tools that were readily available for quick use. USDR served as technical advisor, providing impartial vendor recommendations to help Seattle choose a critical path. Within three days, USDR connected the City of Seattle with Solv Health, a health appointment booking company, which dedicated pro bono engineering time to adapt its easy-to-use booking tool to meet the needs of the Seattle’s testing sites. USDR’s volunteers used a human-centered design approach to help make signing up for testing simple and accessible for residents.
Within three weeks, Seattle’s testing sites and sign-up systems were ready to launch. Two testing sites were active, with plans for additional sites, and appointment slots for COVID tests were full for several days after the appointment scheduler site went live. The testing sites processed seven patients every five minutes, resulting in thousands of tests administered each day. By December, six months after the sites launched, nearly 500,000 people had been tested using the City’s free sites.