Personalized Medicine, Disney Style

By Ulfat Shaikh, MD

As a pediatrician, I make it part of my personal continuing education goals to keep up with the latest in children’s entertainment. Big Hero 6, Disney’s latest animated feature film, did not disappoint. It introduced me to Baymax, a potential future health care colleague I can look up to.

BaymaxBaymax was inspired by a Big Hero 6 co-director’s visit to a Carnegie Mellon robotics lab that was exploring soft, safe robots and developing inflatable arms to help feed, groom, and dress nursing home residents or the elderly.

Baymax, the lovable inflatable marshmallow-like robot, is Hiro Hamada’s “personal health care companion.” Firmly committed to patient satisfaction, Baymax “cannot deactivate until you say you are satisfied with your care.” He instantly appears at the first sound of distress, scans for injury and illness, measures your vital signs, runs labs, provides comforting hugs, whisks your boo-boos away, and gives you a lollipop for being good.

The epitome of patient-centered care, Baymax uses a 10-point visual analog scale to ask you rate your level of pain. His single-minded devotion to promoting health is well-aligned with the Triple Aim, and makes me want to recommend him to my family and friends without hesitation. To quote Baymax, “You are my patient. Your health is my only concern.”

Calm under extremely stressful conditions, his marshmallow-like appearance is intentionally meant to convey a patient-friendly, non-threatening, and approachable persona. A trait that redeems pediatricians everywhere who show up to work in costume at Halloween, or who own a large collection of Winnie-the-Pooh neckties.

Comfortable with tears, Baymax personifies physical and behavioral health integration. He pays close attention to emotional health and understands the importance of social support for those who are grieving.

Despite his heroic medical capabilities (his hands are equipped with defibrillators), Baymax does not forget preventative care. He badgers adolescents about taking better care of themselves, counsels Hiro about buckling up because seat belts save lives, affirms the role of appropriate diet and exercise in promoting longevity, and informs Hiro that he needs to wait one hour after eating before swimming.

Baymax realizes that not every problem needs pharmaceuticals. As he says to young Hiro, “You have sustained no injuries. However, your hormone and neurotransmitter levels indicate that you are experiencing mood swings, common in adolescence. Diagnosis: Puberty.”

Best of all, Baymax is a flying doctor. He makes sure that he provides mobile health care and comprehensive wraparound services. The patient-centered medical home — high-quality, accessible, efficient, personalized, and huggable — Disney style.

ShaikhUlfat Shaikh, MD, MPH, MS is director of healthcare quality at the University of California Davis School of Medicine. She blogs about health care quality improvement at Pulse

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