CDC & STC Health

Improving vaccine ordering and management software

Photo by CDC from Pexels


Clients: STC Health (STC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Sector: Public Health / Government

My Role: Project lead, research and interaction design

Methods: Field studies, contextual inquiry, prototyping, usability testing

Project Timeline: November 2015 – March 2016

STC VOMS application redesigned screen
VOMS application redesigned screen

Every day, thousands of healthcare providers across the United States order and manage inventory for state- and federally-supplied vaccines using the Vaccine Ordering and Management System (VOMS). In 2015, Scientific Technologies Corporation was awarded a contract from the CDC to improve the user experience of this software. My team was brought in to conduct research with VOMS users and participate in the product redesign effort.

The Challenge

STC knew users were experiencing problems with the software but didn’t have systematic processes in place to conduct research with users. STC and CDC stakeholders wanted to know why these problems existed and what could be done to fix them.

The Approach

Working closely with a research colleague and STC’s product owner, I conducted research to learn from the people who use VOMS everyday. By observing and talking to users, we discovered insights about how they do their jobs and identified root causes of the issues they were having.

Field visits with Vaccine Coordinators
To understand how Vaccine Coordinators use VOMS in the context of their daily work, we visited pediatric clinics and observed the process for ordering vaccines, receiving shipments, and maintaining inventory of vaccine doses. Our goals were to understand Vaccine Coordinators’ tasks, the challenges they faced, and the workarounds they employed.

Remote contextual interviews with State Administrators
By interviewing Administrators at State Departments of Health, we learned they are expert users of the system who interact with VOMS for hours a day as part of their jobs. They know the software inside and out, so we asked them to teach us how to do their job. As they shared their screens and walked us through their main tasks, we identified usability issues and unmet user needs.

Discovery Insights
Following the field visits and interviews, we used what we’d learned to define user personas, mental models, and task analyses. These insights provided a framework for understanding the users and aligning on the problems we needed to solve before moving into design.

Prototyping & Usability Testing

I led a collaborative effort to utilize the research insights and design potential solutions that could be quickly tested using interactive prototypes. We began by conducting a benchmark test of the existing software and a prototype the CDC had commissioned. Based on the results of the first usability test, we continued to make iterative design changes and conduct formative tests, quickly learning which design solutions solved users’ problems.

STC VOMS software before redesign
Baseline usability test of VOMS before redesign
VOMS prototype Approve Orders screen
Axure prototype for formative usability testing

When stakeholders were confident we’d arrived at a solution that achieved the organizational goals and met the needs of users, STC’s designers and engineers used our research findings and prototypes to implement improvements to the software. 

The Result

In the end, our work enabled STC to shorten its expected development timeline for VOMS and deploy software updates with the highest level of confidence they’d ever had. Medical providers and state administrators across the U.S. are now using the new-and-improved VOMS.  

  • A consistent and intuitive experience     
  • Efficient workflows that match users’ mental models and expectations     
  • Reduced the number of user errors     
  • Increased user confidence and reduced support calls

STC and the CDC were grateful we included their teams in the UX research process: planning, conducting, analyzing, and generating actionable insights. Their teams now have an appreciation for the importance of doing UX research and are better able to balance complex user and organizational needs. 

Read my interview with STC’s product owner about this project.

“Sixth Man Marketing was an excellent partner for us. Their willingness to learn the use cases, go out into the field to interview end users, perform usability testing and collaborate on workflow design moved our product a long way ahead when it comes to user experience.”

Matt Halloran
VOMS Product Owner, Scientific Technologies Corporation

Tine Reese

Call: (509) 844-3044