What physicians think of health system rebrands

When hospitals and health systems rebrand, it's not just the signage and stationery that need to be changed. Physicians and other providers also have to get used to having new names and, in some cases, new employers.

So how have physicians adjusted to recent rebrands? It often depended on how much they were involved in designing and implementing the changes, their leaders told Becker's.

Becker's reached out to several chief medical officers to ask how rebrands have played out from the inside.

Oliver Mayorga, MD. Chief Medical Officer of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital (New London, Conn.) and Westerly (R.I.) Hospital: Our hospitals experienced a rebranding as part of our integration into the Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health system. For the physicians, it was a mixed response, but overall positive. For those medical staff that had a strong tie to our independent identity, it was a bit more challenging. However, in all, the rebranding signaled a more stable future within the largest health system in Connecticut.

Tyler Hill, DO. Chief Medical Officer of Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (Grass Valley, Calif.): I have been involved previously in a health system that rebranded itself through updating the mission and vision statement. I've also been involved as a department leader in rebranding our own department. One of the most compelling rebranding events in which I have participated was for a residency program. Also, I've been a part of a smaller hospital that was purchased by a larger health system and renamed/rebranded. 

On each level (hospital, service line, program), I have seen various degrees of physician involvement. The most impactful rebranding event was when the physicians were personally involved and their input was requested. On the other hand, when the physicians were not intimately involved in the rebranding/renaming process, it was significantly challenging on my end as a physician leader. When physicians feel that their voice is not imperative to this process, their engagement and alignment with the new direction/name is diminished. From there, physicians will tend to be "renters" rather than "owners" of the future.

So based on my experience in hospital rebranding and renaming, creating physician engagement as early as possible is instrumental in order to achieve success. Having physicians at the table for this will behoove any hospital leader.

William Melms, MD. Chief Medical Officer of Marshfield (Wis.) Clinic Health System: Our organization has not undergone a rebrand, although the hospitals we have acquired have needed to go through this.

The response from the physicians, administrators and staffs at those facilities have been overwhelmingly positive, as typically these organizations have been in need of a strong partner.

The process has been seamless.

Jennifer Khelil, DO. Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Virtua Health (Marlton, N.J.): The rebrand at Virtua Health took place in 2019 as an intentional element of an acquisition. We wanted our visible impact to be more than just "we got bigger," and so our leadership took the time to conduct quantitative and qualitative research and to bring our physicians into the brand discussions.

Involving physicians in "the why" of what we were creating together was a point of unity for our once separate organizations. The new brand meant there was no more "us" or "them," but now "we." As I came to appreciate from working with my marketing colleagues, there is a thoughtful discipline to rebranding that resonates in particular with physicians who value the science and mastery of the research-based process. It's so much more than a creative exercise.

Our inclusive rebrand journey at Virtua Health led us to the positioning of being "here for good" — a sentiment that overwhelmingly rang true for our doctors and seemingly reconnected them to that aspirational purpose of why they chose their profession. Overall, everything for our doctors went smoothly with our rebrand as we found ways to acknowledge and honor our heritage along the way and within the narrative.

The brand story along with the colorful logo and even the brand sonic have given our physicians a meaningful beacon through which to connect with the community. Our physicians embraced the rebranding more rapidly because they were part of the overall process itself. I also find that the brand now has a more contemporary vibe that has been particularly attractive to younger physicians who see a fresh outlook and approachableness in the new brand.

Matt Broom, MD. Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Medical Affairs of SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital: Across the healthcare industry, we have been seeing more health systems and medical groups involved in mergers and acquisitions. These events require a critical focus on messaging and rebranding, as they can have a significant impact on the involved caregivers' identity with their respective employer and to the patients they serve.

Whether part of an academic health center or community hospital, physicians, advanced practice providers and trainees wish to understand that, independent of a name change, the care, focus and mission will be the same.

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