‘There must be a better way’: Ottawa software developer creates rapid test tool


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After an ‘incredibly frustrating’ experience trying to find a way to get hold of a rapid COVID-19 antigen test, an Ottawa software developer created an online tool to identify appointments available at major chains of pharmacies in the towns of the province.

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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 to get your hands on one quickly once you figure that out.

The Ontario government has provided free rapid test kits to organizations and workplaces, as well as schools and pop-up sites across the province. Unlike previous guidelines, the province now says the rapid antigen test can be used to confirm whether a symptomatic person has COVID-19, without a requirement for a confirmatory PCR test.

Those not fortunate enough to get a RAT through government channels can turn to the private market, where testing is available for a fee through online purchases or pharmacy appointments for people without symptoms. at Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall and other drugstores.

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“I noticed on things like Reddit, other people were having the same problem as well. Confusion. Frustration. How to book a quick test,” said DiDomizio, who ended up traveling to Gatineau for his own date. RAT. “And that’s when I thought, there must be a better way than this.”

The 36-year-old self-taught software developer originally designed the tool – a RAT “appointment assistant” – just for Ottawa, in a few hours.

Buyers, Rexall, and some other drugstores all use the same third-party system for booking appointments, and DiDomizio was able to get their tool to mirror which appointments their systems display are 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 website to make one of those appointments.

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When someone is desperate for a quick test, “nobody wants to bother clicking 10, 20 different links just to find out that there aren’t any 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 each to see their appointment availability.)

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

“I wanted to make sure it was working 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 done, 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 have used it to find dates. He has also added other cities to the tool, but has yet to share it widely with users elsewhere. “I’m not trying to spam people.”

He has limits, he noted. There are other pharmacies using different appointment scheduling software that their tool does not capture.

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


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