Rebranding has hospitals playing the name game

What's in a name? For CaroMont Health the answer was the intention to promote community health--followed by a lot of ill-will. The Gastonia, N.C.-based health system last month landed in hot water with residents and veterans over its controversial "cheat death" wellness campaign and its name change from Gaston Memorial Hospital to CaroMont Regional Medical Center.

The Gaston County Veterans Council said the hospital's original name was a memorial to local veterans who died in World War II, the Charlotte Observer recently reported.

Ultimately the veterans and hospital officials reached a compromise, keeping the new name CaroMont Regional Medical Center, calling the campus and grounds Gaston Memorial Medical Park, and building an eternal flame into a monument recognizing vets, the article noted.

But for both parties, it was about more than a name change. CaroMont's experience provides a lesson for hospitals and, more importantly, reinforces that what's in a name matters--to your patients, your community, your brand and even your bottom line. 

The North Carolina system is not the only healthcare organization that has rebranded itself to connect with its community.

For example, after a "Name Your New Healthcare Facility" contest, St. John's Lutheran Hospital in Montana will change to Cabinet Peaks Medical Center, paying homage to the area's Cabinet Mountains Wilderness mountain range, the hospital announced this week.

And earlier this month, the UF&Shands system transitioned to University of Florida Health, a name designed to appeal to customers in the Gainesville and Jacksonville communities.

As part of the system-wide name change, Shands Jacksonville Medical Center took on a "university-centric" name: the University of Florida Health Jacksonville. The idea was to profit from the the University of Florida's brand equity, the Jackson Business Journal reported. Meanwhile, the system's facilities in Gainesville will retain the well-respected Shands brand--switching to UF Health Shands Hospital, UF Health Shands Children's Hospital and UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital.

"Research conducted in the fall of 2012 indicated that the hospital's tie to UF has positive brand recognition in the highly competitive Jacksonville market," UF Health Jacksonville CEO Russ Armistead said in a statement.

Similarly, a rebranding campaign has changed Martinsburg City Hospital to Berkeley Medical Center, Jefferson Memorial Hospital to Jefferson Medical Center and their parent organization West Virginia University Hospitals-East to Virginia University Healthcare, with the hopes of better reputations in the community.

Then there's also Tillamook (Ore.) County General Hospital, which recently announced a name change to Tillamook Regional Medical Center. Hospital officials say "medical center" better reflects its wider scope of services, while "regional" indicates the services extend beyond Tillamook County.

So what's in a name for these healthcare organizations? A lot. They're putting the focus on brands to better connect with patients in today's competitive healthcare environment. - Alicia (@FierceHealth)