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If Disney Took Out Your Trash

If you’re a reasonably long-time reader of Health Care Strategist, you’ve heard me criticize health care's apparent incuriosity about the innovative world beyond some walnut-paneled boardroom.



“Not invented here. Can’t work. Let’s take it to committee. Better yet, let's form a NEW committee!  It’s too risky. Health care is different. You don’t understand - we’re a hospital, not Google! Nobody else is doing it. Why should we?”


Some of you think I’m being too hard on an industry that’s paid my bills for 25+ years. Really? Then tell me why this story is headline-worthy:

"Community Hospital Borrows Show Biz Staging."

Visit any Disney property and what you WON’T see are maintenance carts, food deliveries, trash removals or employees rushing to their job station. All that operational stuff happens behind the scenes, away from the paying public’s eyes.



Lessons from Disney
 Disney pioneered this separation of public and private spaces in the early 1960s at Anaheim’s Disneyland and a decade later on a bigger and better scale at Orlando’s Disney World. By my count that’s 50 years of very public, consumer-focused design. 50 years of lessons to be learned by anybody willing to stop, think, and ask “What if..? Why not..?”


Disney’s thinking has, quite belatedly, diffused throughout health care’s design community. Yet even today it’s sufficiently rare that projects based on this philosophy make headlines.


Ask yourself something: in 50 years, how many times have YOU vacationed in the Magic Kingdom? How many times have your colleagues, your planners and architects visited? Thousands?


And still decades passed before someone in healthcare went “Hey! Wow! What great ideas! Maybe our customers don’t want to see us moving red-bagged trash down a public corridor. And maybe patients on gurneys would rather not be gawked-at on those long elevator rides from 5-East to Radiology and back again.”


Yes, they are great ideas. Ideas that sat there in public view for decades while generations of healthcare execs went merrily along their way.  What are we walking past right now, day after day, without seeing the problem and the opportunity?  And don't answer 'nothing.' 

I think of myself as a hospital leader AND a consumer.  I seldom go anywhere without observing what works (and what doesn't.)  What I love (and what I loathe.)  The details of service and process excellence.  Sometimes that's all innovation requires - those everyday consumer experience, a little reflection, some exploration and lots of empathy. 
  • "I went to Disney World and loved it...but why?" 
  • "I shopped at an Apple store and loved it...but why?" 
  • "I stayed at a Ritz-Carlton and was amazed...but why?" 
(The 'why's' are the most important, by the way.) 

Of course now you can read books about Disney and Steve Jobs and RItz-Carlton, no travel required.  But so can your competitors and wouldn't you rather get there first?

I suppose I should recognize progress instead of criticizing delays. After all, it’s been months since I heard a hospital bragging about the cool flat-screen TVs in their new bed tower. (As if you could buy anything else…)

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