Hospital rebranding is more than a new name or logo

As more hospitals establish satellite locations or affiliations with other institutions in an effort to make healthcare more accessible, institutional rebranding has become commonplace. Unfortunately, rebranding often gets reduced to little more than creation of a new organizational name, website or logo. Thomas A. Kleinhanzl

Properly executed, rebranding should capture the essence of all that an organization is and aims to be. It should represent what that institution means to its leaders, employees and the people it serves. It should signal the culmination of a process that captures both the organization's history and the excitement of new possibilities.

At my own institution, the culmination of that process recently took place as Frederick (Md.) Memorial Healthcare System officially became Frederick Regional Health System. Like others, we adopted a new logo. Our process, though, took nearly a decade to complete.


That is perhaps the most important aspect of rebranding. Rather than simply slapping a new name or logo on an organization, rebranding should be the result of a thoughtful, strategic--and in some cases, lengthy--process.

At Frederick Regional Health System, that process began with a commitment to a new vision: "Superb Quality. Superb Service. All the Time."

Going forward, that vision guided our every activity, no matter how big or small. Our vision statement set the stage for everything that we wanted the healthcare system to become. As a not-for-profit community-owned hospital, we began with the simple premise that every activity we undertake must be right for the citizens we serve.

With that theme guiding our decision making, we adopted our "Why Not?" philosophy. If a program or capability can be offered elsewhere, why can't it be done here?

We began adding programs and capabilities that the community needed and deserved to have close at hand. To eliminate airlifting premature neonates to hospitals in Baltimore or Washington, D.C., for example, we established the Billy Miller Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

To give heart attack patients access to immediate diagnostic angioplasty and stent placement, we developed an interventional cardiology program and built a state-of-the-art angioplasty and electrophysiology lab--which now boasts some of the best door-to-balloon times in the entire state. We also implemented a stroke center (now a Center of Excellence), established the FMH Cyber Knife Center and recruited one of the world's foremost practitioners of radio surgery.

None of this would have happened, though, had a solid foundation not been established first. Initially, it wasn't easy getting the community or even the hospital's internal team to buy into "Superb Quality. Superb Service. All the Time." It took time, patience and open conversations with everyone who had (or might have) a stake in the operation. No one was left out and no idea--no matter how big or small--was ignored.

Gradually, this approach engendered a feeling among our constituents that their ideas mattered. They were being included, and inclusion fostered ownership and, in turn, belief.

It is that belief in what the organization is and can be that spells the difference between success and failure in rebranding. That is precisely why rebranding means so much more than a new name or logo. Yes, that is the end product, but effective rebranding entails a strategic process that engages all stakeholders and ultimately communicates the essence of what the organization stands for today and intends to be in the future. In short, it's all about the vision.

Thomas A. Kleinhanzl has been President and CEO of Frederick (Md.) Regional Health System since December 2004.