The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia Quality Assurance Programs

User experience design at RCPAQAP: Pivoting towards customer delight

The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia Quality Assurance Programs (RCPAQAP) are world leaders in the provision of external quality assurance (EQA) for pathology laboratories in disciplines including molecular genetics, biosecurity and point-of-care. Their programs are offered in Australia and internationally in over 60 countries.

RCPAQAP is an organization with a big acronym and a big mission. Their programs test scientific labs to assess their quality and ensure service excellence. Looking to the future, RCPAQAP's work is becoming increasingly strategic as their scientists review trends, discuss diagnoses, support clinical research, and identify which lab skills are most relevant to test as the field evolves.

A more intuitive online experience

As part of a large digital transformation project, RCPAQAP needed to provide their customers with a faster, easier, and more intuitive EQA (External Quality Analysis) online experience that would meet their expectations and save them time to focus on other important day-to-day tasks.

Taking a human-centric creative approach to building solutions (aka "design thinking”), RCPAQAP partnered with us to refashion the inefficient aspects of their software into clear, valuable methods of working. This engagement with us would:

Our team undertook this six-step design process to deliver a user-centric solution.

Understand, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test, Create

Step one: understand

First, we researched RCPAQAP’s mission, values, customer promise, growth strategy, and brand perception. They empathetically stepped into RCPAQAP’s customers’ shoes to understand more about them and their needs.

Led by Senior UX Designer Archy Ramakumar, the team:

It is important to get a good understanding of user needs and watch what users do, because their actions often contradict what they say. For instance, many participants said that it would be really cool to access clinical forms on mobile. Upon observation we learnt that due to risk of contamination, mobile devices were prohibited from the labs. So, designing for mobile would be a lost cause in this circumstance.

Archy Ramakumar

Senior UX Designer

Step two: define

In this stage, the team identified the problem worth solving. Contrary to the business’ original hypothesis that enrolment was the biggest challenge, research revealed that customers felt the most pain when preparing for accreditation.

“We came back and presented the findings, which said that enrollment was not a problem. Customers are actually fine with it,” said Sarah Harris, Project Lead. “What they were not fine with was the whole reporting and reviewing process. We asked if RCPAQAP would consider addressing that problem first. And they emphatically said ‘Yes. Let’s pivot and go with what the customers are saying.’”

To address those issues, we assembled a set of recommended features and designs and built a shared understanding of desired outcomes to take to the broader team for review.

Current versus proposed workflow

A workflow diagramA low fidelity mockup

Step three: ideate

Armed with insights and recommendations, we reassembled with RCPAQAP to explore the best solutions and discuss potential challenges. They asked questions such as:

The team generated as many ideas as possible, then narrowed down the list to the best solutions. Concepts, user flows, wireframes, and low-fidelity prototypes were some of the artifacts created in this step.

Step four: prototype

Referencing the best solution ideas, Archy and the team created prototypes to share with users to test if their ideas would work. At this point, the team pivoted their design framework from Bootstrap to Material UI: a responsive design framework with a focus on user experience and accessibility that served the design requirements better.

Prototypes can range in fidelity. In this case, the team created clickable screens in Sketch that demonstrated how RCPAQAP’s users might view and collaborate on reports in preparation for accreditation.

Screenshot of a clickable mock-up

Step five: test

Next, we prepared to undertake usability testing to validate their design solutions. Archy explains, “We put the prototype in front of typical users to evaluate how easy or difficult they would find the tasks. We learned early what works and what doesn’t when problems are cheap and easy to fix.”

Usability testing went extremely well, with only one round of minor iterations required. Archy attributes this success to RCPAQAP’s willingness to provide the team with easy access to their customers and encouragement of their involvement early in the process.

Co-creating the designs with the customers and having early buy-in with the stakeholders helps in those bigger meetings. When we held end-of-sprint demos with the wider group, we sometimes found that the stakeholder is presenting the work, which is really great.

Archy Ramakumar

Senior UX Designer

Step six: deliver

Working as an agile-focused delivery team, utilising feedback and design iteration from user testing, we delivered the Reports and Quality Review functionality to RCPAQAP and their customers. The delivery team held daily standups, weekly story refinement sessions and other agile ceremonies in which Archy, the developers, and the business analyst connected to make quick decisions and maintain high velocity to get things done.

“Working on a small, cross-functional team means you get a set of highly skilled professionals focused on creating value for customers and looking for opportunities to learn what's needed for future iterations," says Archy. "The people on the team and their professionalism are key to the success of the project.”

Rolling out changes to delighted customers

RCPAQAP rolled out the new features to a pilot group at Westmead Children’s Hospital. This method of onboarding builds strong advocates, who then onboard others enthusiastically.

Customers are already asking for the next round of features they want. We see this process of continuous improvement as an important component of the work, which includes gathering data and noting where updates might result in a better experience.

In a few months, several programs will go live in the new portal, including a new testing program for Dengue Fever. 120 customers around the world will take part.

They love it. They love that the new portal is modern, simple and easy to use, just what they need to free up more of their valuable time. No more filing cabinets or walking around to peers’ desks with paperwork. It should all be easily accessible to them online, simple, fast and easy. That’s my goal. They have really important work to do as scientists, and I have immense respect for what they do.

Archy Ramakumar

Senior UX Designer