Learn How Vice Software Takes Urgent Care for Kids to School on the Creation of a Custom Telemedicine Platform that Helps to Keep Students Safe.
In 2020, amidst a global pandemic, Vice Software had the opportunity to work with the largest pediatric urgent care provider in Texas, Urgent Care for Kids. Through the formation of enduring working relationships and the utilization of lean, modern development methodologies, Vice Software helped them reimagine pediatric telemedicine and provide schools with an easy-to-use, efficient solution. Now, schools across the state have an extremely affordable, reliable platform that helps to ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone who steps on campus.
The development process wasn’t all smooth sailing, though, and between a global pandemic, evolving state recommendations and aggressive, non-negotiable timelines, the team was definitely kept on their toes. This was a project with many twists and turns. Keep reading to discover how Vice Software got it all done.
With 14 urgent care facilities across the state, Urgent Care for Kids has quickly grown in the last decade. As it grew, its founders saw the need for a telemedicine platform in their service offerings.
Long before the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the collective need to adopt a telemedicine solution in healthcare, Urgent Care for Kids wanted to invest in an affordable option that would allow them to reach children whether they’re able to make it to in-person appointments, or not. By leveraging medical expertise and modern technology, they were able to create Virtual Care for Kids (and later, Virtual Care for Families). Soon after, Virtual Care for Kids partnered with school districts to bring their telemedicine solution into nurse’s offices, and SchoolMed was born.
Students who register for SchoolMed have the opportunity to be treated immediately with a pediatric physician over an on-demand consultation in their nurse’s office. This enables students and faculty members to be diagnosed, treated and return to the classroom as soon as possible. Even prior to COVID-19, SchoolMed allowed nurses to test for and treat common illnesses such as strep throat and seasonal flu.
SchoolMed definitely takes a novel approach to pediatric telemedicine, allowing providers to meet with students in their natural habitat, school. It was by no means a perfect solution, though. The problem? SchoolMed’s user experience was nothing to write home about.
Alan Stickler was brought on as Urgent Care for Kids’ CTO in the spring of 2020 to help automate and streamline the overall experience of SchoolMed, and he quickly realized just how complicated the workflow was for users.
“Getting information from providers to nurses in order to deliver tests or medications was a complicated, convoluted process on SchoolMed,” explains Alan. “The provider and nurse each had to fill out half of a form, sending it back and forth to collect information such as dosage, vitals, lot number, et cetera, before tests could be done by the nurse.”
In addition to a cumbersome data entry process, it was also difficult to register students and verify consent from parents, a potentially huge obstacle for SchoolMed. From a purely technology perspective, this platform had also originally been built using third party tools up until this point. Urgent Care for Kids was using one product for their telecom platform and a seperate tool for forms management. This caused a lot of double entry as information had to be entered into several different systems. The Urgent Care for Kids leadership team wanted a proprietary platform that would function seamlessly no matter which side of the screen you were on. Their app would eventually be known as Pond.
To help him tackle this huge undertaking, Alan partnered with Vice Software, and the reason for his choice in software partner is simple.
I really wanted a software partner I could trust… someone I knew would make the same tech decisions as me so that I could focus on the business.
Alan’s goal in bringing in a team of software developers in addition to his own was to expand capacity and productivity; his team could focus on one functionality, and Vice Software could focus on another. After all, he had an aggressive schedule in mind for this project. He wanted to build an MVP (a minimal viable product) of Pond that could be launched before the beginning of the 2020-21 school year began, so he could get feedback on it from users as soon as possible. He knew if he waited any longer, the next available opportunity to onboard and train school staff on any new software would be winter break.
The original focus of the project was to replace their cumbersome forms management system with something that would feel more seamless and straightforward for users. This required starting from the very beginning, laying out user journeys.
As Alan put it: “We started from zero with this project.”
The first phase of any software development project with Vice Software is user experience (UX) design. Vice Software brought in Brandcave, their strategic UX partner, in June to work with Alan on this project. They worked for three to four weeks to develop flowcharts and mockups based on extensive user interviews.
“It was a huge project,” explains Cody Miles, CEO and Founder of Brandcave. “We moved very quickly on it in order to meet the deadline Alan set.”
Alan saw a lot of value in spending the time and effort needed to make sure the UX was done correctly before the development team got the green light.
“Cody dug in with me on the first day, taking everything I had learned through user interviews and transforming it into a great living document that we could build this app around,” says Alan.
All the work Cody did made it simple to get the stakeholders and users to buy into what we were doing before a single line of code was written.
This is the user journey in a nutshell: the school nurse will act as the facilitator of a telemedicine appointment. Once she/he makes an appointment, a provider will claim that appointment. Then, the provider will meet with the nurse and their student. Providers can send orders, and nurses can document results and responses to those orders. There’s even a design for a private chat feature that allows nurses to privately converse with doctors. Overall, Alan and Cody took very complex workflows and streamlined them for users.
“Our goal was to streamline the process and remove redundancies,” explains Cody.
As a result of the time and energy spent during the design process, providing a good user experience now expands from the brick and mortar clinics of Urgent Care of Kids to the digital platform, Pond, as a core company value. The response from users has been overwhelmingly positive, with the platform being easy to navigate and use and offering little opportunity for serious mistakes to occur.
“I have found that the Pond app is very user friendly. From start to finish, I can pull up a student, input vitals, and be on the call with a provider in a matter of minutes… The providers’ orders, as well as discharge paperwork, are also available within seconds of being submitted. This service is going to be a game changer for many of our students and staff!” said Erin Dethrow, RN Campus Nurse at South Bosque Elementary at Midway ISD.
As the COVID-19 pandemic caused school districts to reevaluate many of their activities, Urgent Care for Kids realized there was an opportunity for their telemedicine solution to do much more for school districts. With this in mind, they diverted some of their resources to developing a COVID Symptom Screener and accompanying dashboard.
Screener was developed to meet mandates from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that called for all staff coming onto campus to answer a series of screener questions beforehand. In order to have this app ready to go by the beginning of the school year, design and development moved fast, taking about two weeks when all was said and done. Now, Screener is an approved app by the TEA.
The University Interscholastic League (UIL) – the main body in charge of athletic, academic and fine arts extracurricular activities in Texas – also issued requirements for school districts regarding screening for COVID-19. These rules meant that schools across the state needed to find a solution for providing asymptomatic SARS-antigen testing of all students participating in any UIL sanctioned activities. This includes the unofficial state religion, high school football.
Urgent Care for Kids quickly realized that the building blocks were already in place for creating a software solution for this unique use case.
“This third flow used most of what was already developed for SchoolMed, but we created sessions around a single visit,” Alan explains. “This allowed providers to see dozens of students in a single visit, and ensure they’re all tested before they go play football or perform in marching band.”
“For this project, we simply wanted to add more functionality into the system that harmoniously aligned with what we already created,” Cody adds.
At this point in the project, the teams at Vice Software and Urgent Care for Kids were working seamlessly and collaboratively across time zones. The internal team at Urgent Care for Kids focused on much of the backend services while Vice Software took the lead on frontend work, solidifying the synergistic working environment and fully optimizing productivity. When they decided to take on the creation of a solution for UIL, the two teams’ workflows blended even more as Ryan Vice, Founder and CEO of Vice Software, stepped in to help accelerate some of the backend development with the Urgent Care for Kids team.
Even after adding two additional use cases to the original project, Vice Software and Urgent Care for Kids were able to put themselves in overdrive to meet the original deadline and develop an entire telemedicine platform from the ground up. Their secret to success? They simply put in the work to do things right the first time instead of cutting corners.
Because we had built the system in a very cohesive but flexible way, it made it possible to pivot and move forward very quickly.
And, Cody would have to agree. “Vice Software developed a flexible system that allowed for large pivots. We were able to very easily redirect the system to meet new, complex workflows.”
“This was the most ambitious software development project I have taken on in my career,” Alan admits.
That is not an exaggeration on his part. Between the beginning of UX design in June until product launch in September, the combined team of Vice Software and Urgent Care for Kids essentially built three separate MVPs. Thanks to all of this hard work and dedication, Urgent Care for Kids expects SchoolMed to be in 300-500 schools by the end of the year.
For schools it has been a win-win. SchoolMed provides them with a fast, reliable way to complete medication and test orders – including COVID-19 testing – from their own campus. When they can improve screening and testing measures for COVID-19, flu and strep, they are able to ensure the health and safety of staff and students and keep attendance up. Good attendance improves state funding. And, the best part? SchoolMed doesn’t cost schools anything. Urgent Care for Kids provides the necessary equipment and takes care of getting health insurance information.
The model Urgent Care for Kids has developed to provide pediatric telemedicine on school campuses is one that other healthcare providers can certainly take note of, and Vice Software is honored to have played a role in bringing it into fruition.
Alan, and everyone at Urgent Care for Kids, has no shortage of good things to say about this entire experience.
Vice Software, along with Cody, was able to work fast without compromising on the process. They took a lot of pride in everything they did, finding alternatives to problems and constantly iterating, all while meeting an aggressive timeline.
Because the team at Vice Software was able to utilize their boilerplates and standards, they were able to meet incredibly aggressive deadlines without sacrificing anything in functionality. They were able to approach new components with a degree of familiarity and bounce between them very agiley.
The team was magical in how fast they built those UIs. It took days to do what should’ve taken weeks.
Throughout the process, Alan knew he could trust and depend on Vice Software to give him honest opinions and advice on any matter. As Alan explains, “The best partners are the ones that will tell you when you’re on the wrong track. Ryan and Cody will push back.”
Having such an open, collaborative relationship between the teams at Vice Software and Urgent Care for Kids has been one of the biggest factors in the successful completion of this project. The two teams would have never met the tight deadlines or pivoted so seamlessly to focus on new flows if they had not embraced a working structure that facilitated deep relationships and the open exchange of ideas.
This enduring partnership also furthered a central goal Vice Software has for every software development project they take on: to ultimately add value to the enterprise. By the time an application is handed off to a client, they should feel like they truly own the proprietary technology that was built.
“We wanted someone who would help us inherit this application later on,” Alan says, “and that’s exactly what Vice Software has helped us do.”
From the very beginning, Vice Software built this software to allow the code to have a high asset value. This means that it could be easily worked on by different teams and would remain highly stable. Every line of code created has been well documented, making it easy for new developers to set up and confidently make changes on their own.
When Urgent Care for Kids was ready to expand their team, it was very easy for us to transfer ownership of the code without them having to waste time ramping up new developers on the system
Vice Software has been offering custom application development services for over five years. Cofounders Ryan Vice and Prashanth Tondapu are on a mission to improve software development by utilizing modern toolkits, a globally distributed team and a uniquely agile team structure that prioritizes their clients first.
The result? Vice Software is able to keep costs from skyrocketing while leveraging phenomenal talent. Their accurate estimates keep your project in budget while their lean development style allows them to move quickly and efficiently produce the most valuable assets. With this formula, they are able to offer high quality custom application development at an affordable price point.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused many companies to reevaluate the value they place on technology as they reassess their workflows and business objectives. We’re all confronting new problems, and these call for new, novel solutions. Work with a team that embraces new technology in all its forms. Request a quote from Vice Software today to get started.