Two students working at their laptops while sitting.

ASU students explore ways to improve services for Arizonians in need

Students at Arizona State University have nearly endless opportunities to change the world, at school and beyond. The university’s Smart City Cloud Innovation Center (CIC), powered by AWS, offers such experiences for students to help local organizations better navigate the digital transformation required to operate more efficiently and effectively. 

This semester, students Anjali Srivastava and Aakash Mathai are taking the lead on a project at the CIC to improve communication between transportation services, healthcare providers and Arizonians in need. 

Recently, the Maricopa Association of Governments and Age Friendly Arizona connected with the CIC to explore ways to improve communication between senior patients, healthcare providers, and transportation services hired to take patients to their appointments. 

Together, the groups identified one area of miscommunication that frequently occurs — oftentimes transportation agencies aren’t notified of rescheduled and canceled medical appointments, causing unnecessary trips to be taken, and time and resources wasted for both the transportation agencies and the patient. 

The proposed solution? Developing a prototype called the POTLUCK (People-Oriented Transportation Linkages for Underserved Communities) app — designed by Srivastava and Mathai using AWS technology. The app would help facilitate communication among doctor’s offices, transportation providers and patients to ensure that if an appointment is canceled, both the transportation provider and the patient would know so that erroneous trips are not made. Additionally, each of the three parties would know about the rescheduling of an appointment, so that there would be less confusion regarding when it is. 

The POTLUCK prototype system is designed so that it would allow doctor’s offices and transportation providers to work together under the goal of ensuring that patients arrive at scheduled appointments, on time and safely. The solution would provide a clean, easy-to-use interface for both doctor’s offices and transportation providers to enter such information. “We are bridging the gap between the healthcare providers and the transit providers,” said Srivastava.


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Designing the user experience

Making the POTLUCK app’s interface as simple as possible was a priority for the students so that the product could be used as much as possible if made available. Users could follow this simple four-step process to access the app: 

  1. Transportation agencies could easily sign up with their email, password, name and phone number. With a verification code, providers would have access to the app. 
  2. Once logged in, the transit provider could Generate a Patient Link. To do so, they would share the customer’s First, Middle and Last Name, along with the Healthcare Provider Name who the patient has an appointment for. A unique Patient Link would then be created for that client.
  3. Once the Patient Link was created, the transit provider would email the Patient Link to the Healthcare Provider. The prototype is designed so that this can all be easily done within the app. 
  4. The Healthcare Provider would then receive the email, asking if they can confirm or deny that the Patient has an appointment. The Healthcare Provider would then add in the details of the current appointment for the patient so that the Transit Provider could have access to the information. 

Hypothetically, if the Healthcare Provider needs to reschedule the appointment, they could easily cancel or reschedule the appointment within the app. The app would then automatically send the Transit Provider an email to let them know that the appointment has been modified. 

“One of the things that we realized when we were working on this project is that healthcare providers have a lot of systems that they have to interact with on a day-to-day basis – they didn’t need yet another system that they have to log in and use,” said Jubleen Vilku, senior program manager for the CIC. “ Healthcare providers can access the link, copy and paste the unique Patient Link onto the patient’s account profile that already exists in the healthcare provider’s system…they don’t have to log in or share any patient details.”

“We created this app in such a way so that anyone who wants to use this can deploy in less than 15 minutes,” said Mathai. The students used a variety of AWS services to develop the app prototype, such as Lambda for code implementation, API Gateway for hosting the application programming interfaces (APIs) and SES for email communication.

Bringing their technology education and knowledge to life

Designing and developing the POTLUCK app prototype allowed both Srivastava and Mathai with an opportunity to apply their learnings from the classroom into the real world. The students used cloud computing for web development and the user interface, and, on the backend side, they utilized AWS services. “Cloud computing is a field that is really blowing up right now and is the future,” said Srivastava. “Different domains from networking to web development to the UI site and cloud computing – all that has been used through creating this project.”

Learn more about the app prototype


Story by Stephanie King; photos by Mike Sanchez