What's in a hospital name? For St. Luke's, it depends which one you're asking

When Saint Luke's Health System said in May that it planned to merge with BJC HealthCare, staff and patients started reaching out to St. Luke's asking what it would mean for them.

They had the wrong St. Luke's.

It was Kansas City, Mo.-based Saint Luke's Health System that intended to join forces with St. Louis-based BJC HealthCare — not Chesterfield, Mo.-based St. Luke's Hospital, which has a hospital in St. Louis. Got all that?

The truth is, it could have happened at any of the numerous Saint Luke's and St. Luke's around the country.

Becker's identified at least 11 hospitals and health systems that bear the name of Luke the Evangelist, from health systems in Boise, Idaho, and Bethlehem, Pa., to hospitals that are part of such networks as CommonSpirit Health, OSF HealthCare and UnityPoint Health.

The mass of St. Luke's shows the fine line some health marketing leaders have to toe to ensure patients and online visitors are coming to the right hospital while keeping a name that many revere.

Many other hospitals named after saints — from Mary to Francis to Joseph — have similar concerns, as do the multiple Baptist, Mercy and Methodist systems, to name a few. There's also a UC Health in Cincinnati, not to be confused with UCHealth in Aurora, Colo.

St. Luke, however, may create the most hospital name confusion. He is, after all, the patron saint of physicians and surgeons.

Merger mix-up

After the May 31 merger announcement between Saint Luke's and BJC, both 14-hospital systems, some physicians and other employees at the St. Louis-area St. Luke's thought it was their two-hospital system. Patients reached out, wondering how their care would be affected.

The health system quickly resolved the confusion among staffers via internal communications, while its media team worked to dispel the outside rumors, said Scott Johnson, chief strategy officer at St. Luke's.

This, not surprisingly, wasn't a first for St. Luke's. It occasionally gets calls and online communications from patients thinking it's the Kansas City Saint Luke's. St. Luke's, however, stands out through its "unique logo and branding" and by stamping St. Louis on its website and social media accounts, Mr. Johnson said.

But it hasn't considered dropping the name.

Brand awareness for St. Luke's is on par with other health systems in the St. Louis area, Mr. Johnson said. And the other Saint Luke's, while in the same state, is more than 200 miles away.

St. Luke's may, however, drop "hospital" from its brand since the organization has expanded well beyond its flagship hospital, founded in 1866, Mr. Johnson said.

'Hi, it's St. Luke's'

About five years ago, Duluth, Minn.-based St. Luke's would get tons of calls from people in other states who found it online thinking it was another St. Luke's.

"We then became more intentional with putting our location directly next to the phone number on our website's homepage and in the footer," said Jessica Stauber, director of marketing and business planning for the two-hospital system. "This helped significantly reduce calls from people looking for a different St. Luke's."

Residents of other states would also fill out online appointment requests for the wrong St. Luke's, so the Duluth health system started displaying its city and state on top of the forms.

"We have developed a strong, consistent brand with a very recognizable blue," Ms. Stauber added. "We lean into that for all of our mass media and digital content — such as social media, digital display and our website."

Blue, however, does seem to be a popular color for other Saint Luke's and St. Luke's.

Name a 'natural' for healthcare

St. Luke's Hospital in Columbus, N.C., is also on the receiving end of calls from patients all over the country. But as a small critical access hospital, it's quickly able to tell if they're on the phone with the wrong St. Luke's, said CEO Michelle Fortune.

Those inquiries, however, have become less common over the years, as the hospital added "NC" to the end of its URL and email addresses and the name of its town to the top of its website and Facebook page.

Despite the minor annoyances, the North Carolina St. Luke's hasn't flirted with changing its moniker.

"St. Luke in the Bible was a physician and healer," she said. "Our founders and benefactors in 1929 felt this fact lent itself naturally to healthcare then and, today, we still agree."

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