The Disney Way

In his entertaining book If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 1/2 Things You Would Do Differently,1 Fred Lee gives a behind the scenes, firsthand view of what it takes to make Disney great—how this organization guides its employees to give its visitors a fabulous experience. Disney sets strict standards for employees to follow and makes clear what their employees’ priorities must be. 

What do you think Disney sets as employees’ No. 1 priority? Is it to make visitors have a magical experience? Is it to make sure the rides are running properly? Disney’s employees No. 1 priority is safety, a priority that is getting more and more attention in medical practices.

Disney’s employees second priority is showing courtesy and compassion. Making people feel as though they are cared for has to be even more important in medicine than it is at Disney. The Disney show, the technical aspects of what Disney does, is the next priority. Too often, we act as though the technical aspects of medicine—giving patients the right diagnosis and right treatment—is more important than communicating compassionately.

Disney employees’ next priority—number 4 on the list if you are still counting—is efficiency. This is an area where my office could certainly improve. Too often, we let medical center rules that promote efficiency—for example, rules about paying co-insurance, having an appointment, communicating with the office—take precedent over our courtesy and compassion for patients. Empowering all employees to put courtesy and compassion ahead of structured rules makes for both happier patients and happier employees, ones who take pride in caring for others.

Just as Disney strives to give visitors a fabulous experience, we, too, should be focused on giving patients a completely wonderful medical experience. We work hard to be technically competent physicians; giving patients technically competent care is necessary but not sufficient. We want patients to appreciate us even more than they appreciate Disney. Disney’s principles provide a good guide for how to this can be done. 


FeldmanSteven R. Feldman, MD, PhD

Chief Medical Editor

Dr Feldman is with the Center for Dermatology Research and the Departments of Dermatology, Pathology, and Public Health Sciences at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC.


1. Lee F. If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 1/2 Things You Would Do Differently. 6th ed. Bozeman, MT: Second River Healthcare; 2004.