Software developer

‘There’s got to be a better way’: Ottawa software developer creates quick test finder

Content of the article

After an “incredibly frustrating” experience trying to figure out how to get a rapid COVID-19 antigen test for himself, an Ottawa software developer has created an online tool to identify available appointments at major drug chains. pharmacies in the towns of the province.

Content of the article

Mike DiDomizio quickly realized from his own pre-Christmas experience that if you’re looking for a rapid antigen test, or RAT, it’s not easy to know where to go, or get your hands on it quickly once you figure that out.

The Ontario government has provided free rapid test kits to organizations and workplaces, as well as schools and context sites across the province. Contrary to previous guidance, the province now says rapid antigen tests can be used to confirm if a symptomatic person has COVID-19, with no requirement for a confirmatory PCR test.

Those unlucky to obtain a RAT through government channels can turn to the private market, where tests are available for a fee via online purchase or pharmacy appointments for those without. symptoms at Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall and other pharmacies.

Content of the article

“I noticed on things like Reddit, other people had the same issue as well. Confusion. Frustration. How to book a quick test,” said DiDomizio, who ended up heading to Gatineau for his own appointment. to the RAT.” And that’s when I thought: there’s got to be a better way than this.”

The 36-year-old self-taught software developer originally designed the tool — a RAT “date assistant” — just for Ottawa, in a matter of hours.

Shoppers, Rexall, and some other pharmacies all use the same third-party system for scheduling appointments, and DiDomizio was able to get its tool to mirror the appointments their systems show as available. Users can visit its website, see the list of local pharmacies and the number of appointments available each day, and then follow a link to the pharmacy’s website to book one of those appointments.

Content of the article

When someone is desperate for a quick test, “no one wants to mess around clicking on 10, 20 different links just to find out there are no appointments available,” DiDomizio said.

(Currently, Ontarians who want to book through the Shoppers or Rexall website enter their address, get a drop-down list of locations, and can click on each to see their appointment availability.)

DiDomizio shared the tool on Reddit on Wednesday, after something of a soft launch several days prior.

“I wanted to make sure it worked properly and I wanted to make sure it would be well received. I didn’t want to just push something that was broken or poorly made, so it was kind of like a…feeling process,” he said.

“And then one time I was like, ‘Okay, this thing is going to help people. Then I posted it on Reddit.

It was generally well received, he said, and some people used it to find dates. It has also added other cities to the tool, but has yet to share it widely with users elsewhere. “I’m not trying to spam it to people.”

It has limitations, he noted. There are other pharmacies using different appointment scheduling software that his tool does not capture.

“I don’t blame them for that. It’s just… a bit of a mess.