2021, Innovations in Research

Project ABC

Authorization, booking and coordination of widespread serological testing and immunization

Ensuring efficient and effective disease testing during a pandemic requires the integration and automation of complex and versatile assessment, scheduling and planning tools. A citizen’s access to the health care system at multiple points, and current tools enabling tracking that data, are labour-intensive and are insufficient to cope with addressing the volume of tests required during a pandemic. Project ABC, funded by Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, is a collaboration among Cambian, LifeLabs, IBM, WELL Health, Tickit Health, Providence Health Care and SFU to deploy technologies that enable the BC health system to deliver a high volume of COVID-19 tests to the patients who most urgently need them, and, when available, vaccination/immunization.

Our Mitacs research, Project ABC, is the companion internship package led by SFU faculty Gromala and Shaw and three graduate students including me. Closely collaborating with Supercluster partners, we are conducting: (1) needs analyses to gather the knowledge and flexibly assess citizens’—particularly vulnerable and at-risk groups’ (VA-RG’s)—information needs and capabilities with respect to the Project ABC systems being developed; and (2) usability testing to experimentally validate the usability and accessibility of the Project ABC systems, such as the online booking system, to ensure that these systems are accessible and responsive to VA-RGs and an ethnically and culturally diverse population.

We have finished the needs analysis phase and gathered feedback from different VA-RGs, such as the elderly, people with disabilities, frontline workers, First Nations, and so on. Currently, we are recruiting more participants for phase 2 usability testing, and conducting usability studies. The usability studies will focus on analyzing cognitive pacing of information and design considerations, such as fonts on legibility and readability concerns, the balance of text and images on perception and comprehension, as well as accessibility, linguistic, special needs and culturally specific issues. The principles derived from these usability studies will help enhance the system to ensure improved user experience and inclusive design.

So far, we have identified cohorts of vulnerable and at-risk people who were not accounted for in the policymakers’ categories but whose inclusion would likely make a calculable impact on staunching the transmission of COVID-19, such as extended families that may have an elderly grandparent and adult with a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes, or the tens of thousands of adult children in BC who have been now been categorized as “essential caregivers” for their aging parents.

We also interpreted interview findings based on participants’ feedback and categorized several concrete policy considerations for the vaccination process and specific design recommendations/features for the scheduler, which are essential for both policymakers and the application developers to iterate the vaccination booking policy and process.

Further, we disseminated our research and brief study results to Cambian, and the public through the media press, clarifying the complex issues such as determining who gets vaccinations according to which factors in pragmatic ways to the public via media outlets.

Project ABC involved making inclusive, patient-centred design recommendations for online COVID-19 vaccination booking technologies to ensure they are accessible and responsive for everyone, particularly vulnerable and at-risk populations.

Xin Tong

PhD Student, School of Interactive Arts and Technology; Research Associate, Pain Studies Lab

Health care technology, user research, user experience/interface, needs analysis, usability testing, human-computer interaction, patient-centred design


Xin Tong

Xin Tong (she/her/hers) is currently affiliated with the Pain Studies Lab at SFU and is a Research Associate there. She is also a lab instructor in SFU's School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), teaching courses related to games, virtual reality, and human-computer interaction. She is completing her PhD at SIAT and defending her dissertation this fall, advised by Dr. Diane Gromala, Dr. Chris Shaw and Dr. Dave Fracchia. Before her PhD, she received her MSc from SIAT and her Bachelor’s in Electronic Engineering from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. Xin also worked as a Research Associate at Peking University from 2018 to 2019 and Tsinghua University from 2012 to 2013.

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