Line-ups are sooo 1990s. Like the phone appointment booking system.
Line-ups are sooo 1990′s. Just like a phone appointment booking system.

The Government of Canada has been getting a lot of criticism for it’s handling of H1N1. Myself, I actually think the Government managed the H1N1 crisis very well.

Look at the facts:

  • This was the largest immunization campaign in the history of Canada;
  • Canada has produced more vaccine relative to the population than any other country;
  • Canada was the first to map the genome of the virus, jumping on a sample received from Mexico;
  • Right now 1 in 5 Canadians are already vaccinated.

So why the bad press? I believe there has been a gap between the government’s service delivery and their managing expectations, application of technology, and connection with stakeholders. I believe Web 2.0 can help bridge that gap; to modernise Government’s contact with stakeholders (citizens, provincial) while it serves its role and achieves its goals (i.e.: public health & safety).

Let me emphasise that I really believe the government did do a lot of things very wellMy run-down:

  • Information: The government provided ample information to Canadians:
  • Web 2.0: The Government connected to Canadians using modern methods like Social Media and Social Networks to connect with the citizenry:

Sure, many of these things could still be improved, or better applied, but they’re way more advanced than many other Government of Canada departments (I dare you to find 2 that are more connected).

But – Information is one thing, Service delivery is another. Though I may be the second to point out “not everyone can be immunized at once” in the  ”largest immunization campaign in the history of Canada”, the success factor here included not only an effective mass immunization process on the macro level, but also an effective individual immunization process.  And on the individual level it was confusing and a waste of time. I don’t know what the government’s success factors were, but perhaps they were narrowly focused on just getting the most people vaccinated, period. I think there was room to do a bit more.

I offer a 3 point strategy  to align Government service provision to stakeholders: Manage, apply and connect“:

  • Manage expectations;
  • Apply technology;
  • Connect with stakeholders.

Now, I know the problem of managing vaccinations in the face of a health crisis is complicated; it’s mired in Fed-Prov health services jurisdictions, procurement and distribution of the vaccine, and the logistics of a cross-country patchwork of local clinics. Sure. But current standards client-focused service paradigms requires integration of beginning to end. Although better integration with the provinces system was necessary to provide adequate services to Canadians, using enabling technology the Government could have connected directly with Canadians and facilitate their connection to provincial services for the vaccine. If provinces could run the whole show themselves, the Federal Government can focus elsewhere while evaluating provinces’ success with disbursing the vaccine and coordinate the sharing of best practices in health service delivery.

Thinking ahead, I’d like to share my list the gamut of services I would love to do have seen in this H1N1 campaign:

  • Manage expectations
    • I can check online to see how busy the local clinic is;
  • Apply technology
    • I  can fill out a profile and book an appointment;
    • I can get an SMS message alerting you that the clinic you’re ‘following’ is experiencing no delays and is available to vaccinate you;
  • Connect with stakeholders
    • I am alerted about recent changes to the local vaccination drive;
    • Local clinics are alerted when more vials are available for pickup/drop-off
    • Provinces are kept up to date via online data (Open Data perhaps?) of the latest inventory and distribution so they can prepare clinic hours & personnel

I know this wouldn’t all be easy, but even a modest commitment of the use of engaging technologies can yield successful results. I’m inspired by this warm article about H1N1 vaccinations being administered with success as they experienced “no frustrating lineups. No one was turned away because the vaccine supply has run out or the staff is overrun…a smooth flow of patients coming and going for flu shots” (thanks again to @ChristopherHyne for forwarding it to me). Their secret: using an appointment system citizens could book using their phone. Simple. Something either level of government could offer or manage on a broader basis. Of course if it is being provided by local governments, I suggest the other levels of government support it by referring to them instead. But where such a system hasn’t been implemented (i.e.: the rest of the country), a system should be put in place and Canadians suggested to use it. Another innovation comes from the US government: using Google maps they charted out the location of H1N1 clinics across the US. An added beneficial touch would’ve been to keep up-to-date to show the amount of vaccinations on-hand.

The technology exists to effectively manage programs and connect with citizens exist. Government can benefit from a client perspective from these tools, and they can have a deep effect on the ultimate outcome of the program. And the outcome of a program isn’t just service delivery, but also effective dealing with the client.

Heads up: I’ve been in communication with David Eaves about how Open Data could have facilitated the handling of H1N1. I look forward to his blog post on the topic, and suggest you look forward to it too!