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What Barbenheimer Teaches Us About the Healthcare Segment

Updated: Aug 22, 2023


Who would have dreamed that a nuclear scientist and the most iconic doll in history would be a double feature with the highest revenues in movie history? No one has those clairvoyance skills.

But there is a lesson to be learned for marketers and C-Suite leaders about how such incredibly different domains might apply to their healthcare enterprises. After all, I would argue healthcare has both Barbie and Oppenheimer elements which could — and sometimes already do — attract a double-feature audience.

I can think of dozens of instances where nuclear science and toy dolls converge in healthcare. But let’s take a look at just a few.

Patient Experience in Barbieland and Los Alamos

While many facets operate in isolation, no other aspect of healthcare combines the quantitative and qualitative better than patient experience and satisfaction.

When you think about it, HCAHPS is the Barbenheimer of PX! We start this feature with the patient entering a clinical 'Barbieland' of sorts, where all the caretakers wear the same costumes. We then progress to an empirical analysis of care and outcomes on 'Barbiemobile' dashboards. In some cases, the 'Dr. Kens' take over Barbieland only to find that the Barbie-patients want freedom and a more participatory culture.

On the other hand, much like Oppenheimer, there is an emotional toll on technical teams when deploying untested yet groundbreaking technologies under healthcare's 'do-no-harm' mentality. This is undoubtedly different than dropping bombs on two cities, but think about the anxiety of rolling out huge volumes of largely untested vaccines to halt a pandemic.

Building the Converged Barbie-Oppenheimer Brand

Healthcare marketers realize the importance of positioning their enterprise on the cutting edge of technology while at the same time remaining approachable. They must balance their messaging on how very sophisticated disruptive technologies keep patients alive with patient-led emotional stories that can circulate on social media and broadcast channels.

Like Barbenheimer, both sides are at play. You want the healthcare technologists to sound compassionate and the clinicians to be perceived as technology savvy.

Diversity and Collaboration

I never dreamed I’d write about how a nuclear weapon and a doll could be a lesson in diversity for healthcare leaders. But both films have reinforced the cultural issues related to the toy and ordinance industries.

In the case of Barbie, what was once a stereotypical white blonde beauty has transformed to represent how the product expanded and adapted to various cultures, underrepresented professions, and body types.

Healthcare, at times, plays lip service to tailoring care based on culture and diversity. And yet there are scores of conferences and scholarly articles focusing on the inequities of the modern healthcare system, exasperated by implicit bias in the technology designed to improve it.

In the case of Oppenheimer, the brain trust developing the weapon had roots in the countries that were enemies in the war and in an ethnic group that was being exterminated.

You should probably ask how I’m going to make any of those statements mesh with healthcare. Where in healthcare could there possibly be a converged emotional attachment and turmoil based on culture, politics, or ethnicity in reaching an improved patient outcome?

But these factors arise daily, considering the complex diversities and politics of the patient and clinical populations. Take, for example, the sweeping changes related to abortion rights and how this has energized physicians who feel strongly that women have the right to choose. Many physician organizations, like Physicians for Reproductive Health, have developed their equivalent to the Manhattan Project to battle draconian laws related to abortion.

A comedic GIF that puts Oppenheimer within the Barbie universe

Even though it may be a stretch, can you see any Barbenheimer elements in your healthcare organization?

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