If you are a jet setter like me, the two-year domestic life might have taken a toll on you. After the vaccination, you might have made plans, changed plans and kept it minimal. It would be best if you still had several Covid-19 tests to travel between countries. A Canadian company, Switch Health, has been picked by Air Canada as its sole testing partner in Canada. You can even earn 500 miles buying their kit as a member. This company also supplies Toronto Pearson Airport to provide testing kits for International arrival passengers if they are randomly selected for a mandatory test.
In a perfect world, one may think, if a company has a self-serve testing kit, which big corporations and authorities endorse, it would just work the same as Clear blue or First Response, straightforward and almost reliable. Unfortunately, due to regulations and user scenarios, many variables have been added to the user workflow. And these are flaws in these variables.
I will do a walkthrough of my recent experience with Switch Health and reflect on the things that have gone wrong, and hopefully, they can improve those issues sooner. Given the percentage of unsatisfied Switch Health users around me, I could see potential legal claims or simply losing their license from Health Canada.
I brought Switch Health RT-LAMP self-testing kit on a recent trip and hoping I could use it to get back to Canada. I would have suffered a tremendous financial loss if I had cancelled this trip, so the ethics of this trip is pointless to discuss, and it was essential to me.
After a 12 hour flight, I sat in a restaurant at Dubai (DXB) airport lounge and made sure my Internet connection was stable. I logged into the account I created on Switch Health’s website. Then I requested to connect with a nurse who will be supervising my test. I finished the test with instruction from the nurse over a video chat session, and then I just needed to wait for the result.
At this point, everything seemed seamless, and I was confident that this little sidetrack would be over soon, so I could rewind myself with a hot shower at the lounge. The website interface is modern and easy to navigate, and the nurse was professional and helpful. The only weary thing was that there was no information about when I disconnected with the nurse and how long since the device started to analyze the result. I believe most UX practisers should know this top one rule by Jakob Nielsen: “The visibility of System Status,” which is the most critical in UX design for systems to communicate various states and user action feedback.
Then the chaos begins
While the testing device is still flashing, I received two notifications by SMS and Email from Switch Health with the same content: “Switch Health: This is a reminder to upload a photo of your test result soon. https://portal.switchhealth.ca”. When I received the message by my phone’s SMS, I thought I could wait for a few more minutes, as the nurse did inform me that the device needed 15-30 minutes to process the sample.
Then I got another notification via Email with the same text template as the SMS but also has a graphical email template, which seems quite formal. While the device was still flashing, I was unsure if I could wait a bit longer to upload the result. At that moment, I was not sure if these messages were a reminder for me to upload results when I got a definitive answer from the device. Or, do Switch Health want to know the current status of the device. Or is this the time I must upload the result regardless of the device’s state?
With those unclear questions, I logged into Switch Health’s self-serve portal. I was able to see the window for users to upload the result. I also remember reading something like, “if your device did not provide a result, we would follow up with you.” At this point, I thought I could upload an “in-progress” result photo to the Switch Health portal, and someone would get in touch with me.
As a UX designer, it should not be new knowledge that we adopt multiple mass notifications for emergency purposes. For example, during an emergency crisis, we use various means to reach as many audiences as possible, such as SMS, loudspeaker, or digital signage. Furthermore, as Leonardo Da Vinci once states, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Similarly, John Made suggested that “simplicity is achieved by thoughtful reduction.”
The Email and the SMS notification have played a negative role in my decision-making process: uploading the result to Switch Health at once instead of waiting longer. So I took a photo of the device and uploaded it to the portal (Huge Mistake).
Three minutes later, I got an email from Switch Health, and it was the result report, which reads as “Specimen Damaged.” At this time, I thought Switch Health would get in touch with me to discuss my result, but I was wrong again.
14 minutes later
The device finally finished processing the result and gave me a negative impact. While I did not hear from Switch Health, I started to call and send Emails, as my plane would begin boarding in 60 minutes. Notedly, I had three hours layover at DXB and I did the test after I landed as the first thing.
Luckily, I got through the hotline, and a nurse picked up the call. To my disappointment, the nurse firmly told me that they would not change the result according to the law (but without citing the law). Then she sounded like I was the stupid user, and I needed to “find the alternative.” I would feel better if the call did not go through in time.
After I settled in the Emirate’s “game-changer” class, I started to read posts and chat with my friends. Then I realized my incident was not the only case. Given the risers of ubiquitous computing, our computing world has evolved way faster than many have learned, especially for UX designers. Also, it seems this entire process of bringing a test kit abroad and the do-it-yourself approach has many potential issues. There is a lack of a fail-safe mechanism to ensure the users can recover from whatever errors they may encounter.
In this article, we have discussed the issue with Switch Health’s self-testing kit, without proper system status indication and unnecessary, redundant system notification to my particular horrifying experiences. There are also other issues that other Canadians had encountered when they used Switch Health’s RT-LAMP testing kit.
Based on my own experience and observations, bringing a Switch Health kit abroad is a risky solution. I would suggest any international traveller consider arranging testings with the destination city. Only get the self-test kit as a last resort.