Why 3 health systems changed their names

A health system's name and branding are becoming even more important amid the rise in healthcare consumerism and other industry trends.

However, when an organization does decide to take on a different moniker, it is not always an easy journey, especially if they have significant brand awareness that has been built up over the years. Various factors must be considered, including the organization's history and evolution.

Here, three health systems discuss why they changed their names.

Northwell Health

Great Neck, N.Y.-based North Shore-LIJ Health System became Northwell Health in 2016, nearly 20 years after the merger of North Shore Health System and Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

Northwell Health spokesperson Terence Lynam said North Shore-LIJ Health System no longer reflected the scope of the organization, as it now consists of more than 20 hospitals, including facilities outside of Long Island in New York City and Westchester County. He said the system's hospitals also grew to be a regional network of long-term care facilities, rehab, home care, hospice services and more than 665 outpatient facilities. Additionally, the system includes a medical school, ambulance transport system (including helicopter), graduate nursing school and research enterprise, called the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.

"The feeling was we needed a name that was more reflective of the organization as it existed," said Mr. Lynam.  

There were multiple options on the table. However, Northwell Health ended up being the favorite among leadership and the board. The new name became effective in January 2016.

"With the continuing shift in the national healthcare delivery system and growing emphasis on health and wellness promotion and disease prevention, we wanted a name that underscored our focus on keeping people well and better managing their health, rather than only treating them when they are sick or injured," he said. "So, the new name was an acknowledgment of North Shore-LIJ heritage, and we thought it better reflected efforts to guide consumers toward better health."

Along with the name change came a broad rebranding and marketing campaign launched in 2016. As part of the campaign, Northwell Health has worked to build recognition of its new name and clearly show how the organization has grown over the years. It also moved its headquarters from Great Neck to New Hyde Park, N.Y. Names of individual hospitals remained intact, although Northwell Health now appears as part of each facility's signage.

Two years after the campaign launch, Northwell Health is happy with awareness of the new name in communities it serves.

When asked to identify a top hospital in the area, 62 percent of Long Island residents and an average of 50 percent New York City-area residents in communities the organization serves mentioned Northwell Health.

"We're actually pleased with those numbers. We think they're pretty good," said Mr. Lynam.

"Obviously we continue to advertise and market the name. Next steps are building on what we've already done. That first year was especially important since we were starting from scratch and there was a heavy ad investment in trying to get the name out. Then after a year it was more about promoting the Northwell name instead and going back and referencing LIJ." 

Atrium Health 

Carolinas HealthCare System, a 45-hospital system based in Charlotte, N.C., changed its name to Atrium Health in February.  

System spokesperson Chris Berger said the move is in line with the organization's mission: "To improve health, elevate hope and advance healing - for all." 

Officials knew the system's footprint was in the Southeast, beyond North Carolina and South Carolina. Therefore, they wanted a name that fits the "for all" part of the mission, especially as the organization engaged in discussions with potential partners. On Feb. 8, one day after the name change, Atrium Health announced its intent to form a strategic combination with Macon, Ga.-based Navicent Health. The next month, it suspended merger discussions with Chapel Hill, N.C.-based UNC Health Care. 

"We'd been thinking about a name that could go with us into the future, and what that would look like, even during our UNC discussions," said Mr. Berger. Then, "we were going to make the Navicent Health announcement and knew it would be hard for any system outside the Carolinas to be able to join up with a system that had a geographic reference as part of the name." 

The system sought a new name that was a real word and did not include a geographic reference. Mr. Berger said Atrium was chosen because it means a place filled with light, as well as a gathering place where diverse thinkers come together. It also is the chamber of the heart where each heartbeat begins.

Additionally, Mr. Berger noted Atrium Health is a short name, which has many branding benefits, including starting at the beginning of the alphabet.

Although the system changed its name, it updated and kept the well-known "Tree of Life" icon and teal color associated with the Carolinas HealthCare System brand. 

"One important thing we have shared with the communities we serve is while we continue to evolve as an organization, we also will always hold true to our roots," he said. 

Mr. Berger said patients went through the typical feelings when a change is made with something familiar. However, he said the overall reaction has been positive, and patients have gotten increasingly comfortable using the new vernacular.  

"I think the big thing we wanted to make sure of is we found a name that reflects our system's evolution as we look to advance beyond traditional borders and care settings," he said. Additionally, "the 'for all' part of our mission truly means without borders. It's limitless. And changing our name allows our organization to grow and impact as many lives as possible to fulfill our mission." 

Adventist Health System

Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based Adventist Health System, a 47-hospital, faith-based system, plans to change its name to AdventHealth, effective Jan. 2, 2019.

President and CEO Terry Shaw said talks about a name change began several years ago.

"We had an outside panel of experts come to review our five-year strategic plan and nothing in our strategic plan focused on branding," he said. "In their final report, they recommended we think about what branding would look like across all delivery sites and potential impact that could have in the market."

From there, Adventist Health System leaders considered various name options, but they ultimately chose AdventHealth. Mr. Shaw said the system's religious history, as well as its desire to be inclusive of every patient in every market and to unify its various market-based brands, contributed to the decision.

"We wanted something that would keep with our heritage but also be something that would represent something of value to anyone in the marketplace," he said.

"The sum of that is to be a consumer-focused organization that delivers Christ-centered, 'wholistic', best-practice care across the entire continuum and to do that in a way that the consumer is helped through the process and is not left to navigate that by themselves."

The organization spent the last year preparing for the rebrand and an overall business change.

As part of those efforts, the system expanded its spiritual resources into the outpatient setting. Now, there are providers in physician offices and urgent care centers asking patients questions about topics such as joy, love and peace. Mr. Shaw said the answers are recorded in the patient's medical record but can also result in a referral to Adventist Health System's spiritual care specialists. The expansion of spiritual resources is being phased in and is expected to be completed by January. Since the rollout began in May, there have been more than 1,500 referrals for spiritual care follow-up in the outpatient setting.

By June, the system also plans "to have every consumer in every one of our markets understand what we're doing and to experience care in a different way," said Mr. Shaw.

"I do believe most consumers are going to like the way we are changing how we're interfacing with them, and I think it will be very positive in the market and very positively received."


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