Quebec solves H1N1 vaccination queues with Disneyland Fastpasses

Quebec has streamlined its H1N1 vaccination system by borrowing a trick from Disneyland's "Fastpass" queueing system. At Disneyland (and other Disney parks), busy rides have Fastpass ATMs at their queue-heads. Would-be riders insert their park-tickets and get a reservation stub in return, advising them to return later in the day in a one hour window (say, 1:15-2:15) (pro tip: Disney doesn't enforce the "expiry" time, only the "ripening" time, so you can go any time after 1:15, which means that you can collect Fastpasses all morning when the lines are short and use them all afternoon when the lines are long).

Quebec's health-care system is doing the same, banishing seven-plus-hour waits in favor of a quick, efficient system that allows people to return at a later time for very quick treatment.

Tony Benn, the great British politician, recently gave a CBC radio interview where he decried New Labour's approach to governance, saying that they'd stopped seeing themselves as the people's representatives and started seeing themselves as the people's managers. This is true around the world, I think — Bush was the "CEO President" and Obama has appointed a "CTO" for America. Canada's Harper government clearly sees itself as running Canada, Inc. And, of course, China and Singapore's politburos are unabashed managers and make no real pretence to representing their populations.

And there are some benefits to a "management" approach — this being one of them. Disney manages crowds like no one else. If you have crowds that need managing, take a notebook and a camera to Disney World for a week and come back with the solution to your problem.

But in the main, I'm a lot happier to be represented than managed. A CTO tries to maximize the profitability of technological deployments for highest return on investment; a Minister (or Secretary) of Technology would maximize the social benefits of technological deployments. A CEO tries to return maximum value to his shareholders; a President or Prime Minister tries to govern for maximum social justice and prosperity.

Every now and again, though, "management" and "representation" dovetail, and here's one of those places where it does. I want my representatives to manage the problem of getting us all vaccinated, and I'm happy to see them use the best tools for doing that, wherever they originate.

Lines are still forming at some vaccination centres, where people are queuing up early just to get their coupons. But officials say the system has been effective. At one vaccination centre in Montreal's Plateau Mont Royal district recently, nurses and health workers outnumbered people in line.

"The system is marvellous," said Johanne Spencer, who'd whisked through her vaccination. "You know what time you're going to have your turn and you know how long you'll have to wait. You don't waste three, four hours in line."

Montreal adopted the coupon system for all 17 vaccination centres across the city.

"Something had to be done," said Deborah Bonney, a spokeswoman for the Montreal-region health and social service agency. "At the beginning, we had no idea people were going to line up in the dark of the early morning in the cold. Confronted with the situation, the coupon system seemed to be the best option. It seems to have done the trick."

Quebec's Disney-inspired solution to flu-shot chaos

(Thanks, Mom!)

(Image: Con FastPass ya habrías entrado, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike photo from jmerelo's Flickr stream)