You Need a Different Differentiator

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, September 10, 2008

I've been thinking lately about the ways hospitals differentiate themselves. It seems as though, for hospitals, there's a limited number of market positions to stake out. High-touch/high-tech, top 100 hospital, best quality, most caring: Blah, blah, blah. At what point do these descriptors—and let's face it, they're clichés—become totally meaningless?

I'm thinking that point is just about now.

Enter Florida Hospital's new venture, The Disney Children's Hospital in Orlando. Slated to open in 2010, it's going to feature cutting-edge technology, employ world-class physicians, and pursue the highest quality standards.

Sorry, I nodded off there for a minute.

The 200-bed hospital will have also have family-centered pediatric rooms; a dedicated pediatric Emergency Department; an Advanced Center for Pediatric Surgery led by renowned surgeons; destination pediatric programs including oncology, neurosurgery, cardiology, transplant services; and an obesity program.


In the lobby, children will be able to draw on a cave wall, create jungle sounds on musical step pads, fish for virtual salmon, and play among popping bubbles and dancing sea horses. And each night as the sun sets, the lobby will transform into a celestial display, featuring constellations on the ceiling and a musical score created by the young patients. The décor will feature characters from "The Little Mermaid," "The Lion King," "Brother Bear," and "The Jungle Book."

Now that woke me up.

Other children's hospitals in Florida and elsewhere know how to treat children—in both the clinical sense and the personal, emotional sense. Other hospitals have similar technology. They have the same service lines. They have talented physicians and nurses.

But Florida Hospital has entered a whole different realm.

It remains to be seen if the self-proclaimed "hospital of the future" will be a model for other pediatric hospitals, as it claims. And maybe it shouldn't be—if in the future all hospitals are Disney hospitals, then we're back where we started, unable to differentiate ourselves in a crowded and clichéd market.

But there is a lesson, here. You have to search for your own different differentiator. You have to identify and market what makes you special in addition to all that other very important but slightly boring stuff.

Wake me up when you've figured out what that is.

Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at
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