Written by 12:12 pm Pharmacy Operations

If Disney Ran Your…Pharmacy? Part 1

I have just begun reading “If Disney Ran Your Hospital” by Fred Lee. In this book, Fred, an experienced hospital executive who also became a Disney employee (cast member), takes what he learned from the Disney culture and shows how it could be used to deliver more excellent results in hospital systems. 

As a pharmacist I take what I read and try to apply it to the work situations I find myself in. Could the insights which Mr. Lee shares in his book apply to the way we typically think about retail or outpatient pharmacy? Could Disney have discovered some things which the major players in the retail pharmacy world like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and others need to learn? I think so.

Some professionals might be insulted by a comparison of their healthcare business model with an entertainment industry. But Mr. Lee makes a strong argument for comparing the two types of companies, and I think we should listen up.


The first insight I’m going to share from his book has to do with our competition. There is perhaps no healthcare business which is more fiercely competitive right now than retail pharmacy. There are communities in which a retail pharmacy exists at almost every major intersection. Ask any employee at one of these pharmacies who their competition is, and they will usually respond with something like:

“ABC pharmacy down the road”

“XYZ pharmacy across the street”

“123 Mail Order Pharmacy”

You get the point. We tend to naturally think of our “competition” as other pharmacies. 

Disney says no. Fred says no.

Rather, our competition is ANY business which our customer compares us to. ANY business. In Fred’s words “In the battle for the supremacy of perceptions in the patient’s mind, our competition is anyone the patient compares us to.”

His argument is based on the fact that the TOP drivers of patient satisfaction are almost all things which EVERY business seeks to provide. Things like perception of “care” and “employee attitude” and “response to complaints” and “communication” and “convenience.” These factors are not unique to hospitals, and they are not unique to pharmacies. 

Think about it. How many times have you encountered an exceptional person in a restaurant, or coffee shop or grocery store and thought to yourself “I would love to have this person work for me. I could teach them the pharmacy stuff. But they have a great attitude and that is hard to teach.” I  think that sort of thing all the time. 

And the same thing is true of the way a business operates. 

Recently I had a great service experience from Dell when we needed to get something fixed on a laptop. I also had a poor service experience with a car radio installation. In both cases I didn’t compare the experience to other identical industries. I simply evaluated the experience as a “good” one or “bad” one compared to all sorts of customer service I receive. 

How would patients rate our pharmacy operation in terms of their experience at our pharmacies? Do they walk away thinking about how great our teamwork was? Were they impressed with our convenience? Will they tell others about how kindly and respectfully they were treated? Are we consistently delivering BETTER patient satisfaction than the neighborhood grocery store, the favorite local diner, the gym, the movie theater, the lumbar yard or department store? Are we better than DISNEY? That is who we are being compared to.  Like it or not.

Fred writes “If Disney ran your hospital, your nurses would begin to believe that they are judged not so much against the standard of other nurses in similar settings, but against the standards set by the nicest people giving service anywhere. And the same would be true of your housekeepers, telephone operators, managers, and physicians.” 

If Disney ran our pharmacies maybe we would do things differently as well. 

Last modified: October 10, 2017