Lessons from the Barbie Blockbuster: A Blueprint for the Healthcare Industry

ARTICLE BY Vijay Wadhawan

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the movie Barbie opened on Friday. The film’s opening weekend was a huge success, collecting more than $377 million USD at the box office worldwide – the highest-grossing first weekend ever for a movie with a female director (Greta Gerwig). This success was driven in part by a hugely effective marketing campaign and a story concept that appealed to a diverse audience and reflected the realities individuals experience every day. 

Although superficially unrelated to healthcare, there are a number of key lessons to draw from Barbie’s triumph – insights that have the potential to transform the industry. By exploring the underlying elements that contributed to Barbie’s success, we can uncover innovative strategies to enhance patient care, drive efficiency, and elevate the overall healthcare experience.


Embrace diversity and inclusion

One important strength of the Barbie movie was its emphasis on diversity and inclusion. The film showcased a wide range of characters with varied backgrounds, abilities, and personalities. This inclusiveness onscreen was an implicit invitation to diverse audiences: never mind the Barbie of the 1950s – this experience is for you, too. The characters in the movie were presented in a way that did not have judgment attached to the characters but an acceptance of where the individual character was in their own journey. The healthcare industry can also benefit from promoting diversity in its workforce and thus advancing inclusivity in patient care. By building diverse teams within the industry, we can enhance our ability to understand the nuances of patients’ lived experiences, meet the diverse needs of the people we serve, and help individuals safely and comfortably advocate for their own health by meeting them where they are in their own healthcare journey.

Create engaging and accessible content

The Barbie movie’s captivating storyline and striking animation and cinematography captured the attention of audiences worldwide. Although the healthcare industry doesn’t exist to entertain, it can deliver important benefits by creating engaging and accessible content for stakeholders across the industry – especially to help bridge key knowledge gaps between the general public and those who work in healthcare. Utilizing patient-friendly language and interactive platforms, such as mobile health apps and educational videos, can empower patients to make informed decisions and take charge of their health.

Foster collaboration and partnerships

Behind the scenes, the Barbie movie’s success was fuelled by collaboration among talented individuals and creative partners. In the healthcare industry, which can be notoriously siloed, fostering collaboration and partnerships between hospitals, clinics, research institutions, and technology companies can lead to ground-breaking innovations. Working together, these stakeholders can develop and implement cutting-edge medical solutions that help to create efficiencies and increase access to data – ultimately supporting better decisions and improved patient outcomes.

Better leverage technology and innovation

The Barbie movie made use of state-of-the-art animation technology to bring its characters and Barbie universe to life – and also to make some of the visual fun of the movie available to fans, through customizable memes like the Barbie Selfie Generator. The healthcare industry needs to prioritize building easily accessible and user-friendly technological advancements to enhance patient care. Telemedicine, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and wearable devices are just a few examples of how innovative technologies can revolutionize healthcare delivery making it more efficient, cost-effective, and patient-centered.

Prioritize Patient-Centered care

The Barbie movie is a teeming world, full of people, colour, and action – but ultimately, it’s all about Barbie’s journey and growth. In healthcare, adopting a patient-centered approach – recognizing people as unique individuals and staying focused on the whole, changing person in a complex context – is crucial to providing high-quality care. By understanding and considering each patient’s unique circumstances, preferences, and values, the industry can build personalized treatment plans that yield better patient adherence to healthy behaviours. These can, in turn, lead to better health outcomes and increased patient satisfaction.

Embrace change and adaptability

The Barbie franchise has evolved over the years, adapting to changing tastes and societal norms. Similarly, the healthcare industry must remain adaptable to stay relevant and effective. The way individuals think about their health, the way they want to interact with healthcare providers and system, and the values that drive their behaviours are constantly changing. Being responsive to key inputs – new research and best practices as well as regular feedback from patients – is essential for healthcare providers and organizations seeking to continuously improve their work.

Engage in community outreach

The Barbie marketing campaign was extensive, engaging communities globally and creating a sense of excitement and anticipation. The healthcare industry can learn from this approach to laying foundations of engagement early on – letting communities know that a change or an offering is on its way. This can be especially important for communities that are not typically engaged or may have been overlooked in the past; these communities tend to benefit most from focused outreach. When it comes to building wellness programs like health fairs or educational workshops, it’s valuable to build connections with leaders who have credibility in specific communities. Getting these trusted figures on board can help new programs or offerings build trust, promote preventive care, and foster lasting relationships with patients.


I love looking beyond the strict boundaries of the research and healthcare space for inspiration. As far as it might seem from health systems and medical innovation, the success of the Barbie movie has plenty of valuable lessons for health leaders. Embracing diversity and inclusion, creating engaging content, fostering collaboration, harnessing technology, prioritizing patient-centered care, adapting to change, and engaging in community outreach are all practices healthcare professionals and organizations can apply in their own work. As we work to build a healthier and more compassionate future, we should be willing to learn from everyone who has something to teach us – including Barbie.

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