My whole life I’ve been a spaz—so naturally, I’ve wound up in a few too many emergency rooms. After a recent stint waiting three hours for what was ultimately a positive prognosis (thankfully), I began thinking about the hospital experience from a branding perspective. Have you ever heard people casually talk about hospitals in their everyday conversations? If so, has it been positive? In my experience, the answer is no.
So are we then to assume that hospitals don’t care about branding? No; in fact, hospitals are now paying more attention to the way they brand themselves than ever before. Lately, this has most noticeably played out in the naming process, which is perhaps the most visible and immediate way for them to change brand perception.
Take Broward General Medical Center, the country’s oldest hospital, for example. Now encompassing more than 30 facilities, Broward General is hoping to change its image as a public hospital by honoring brand over history and changing its name to ‘Broward Health Medical Center.’ By losing “General” in the name, they intend to downplay the perception that Broward General is a public hospital. They also plan to do away with the “medical center” descriptor in three of their other public hospitals. Basically, they’re striving to expand their reach by broadening the name, while leveraging the Broward equity across multiple facilities.
Unfortunately for Broward General (or Broward Health), it appears that not everyone in the Broward camp is on the same page. David Pietro, a hospital commissioner, recently announced, “I have a real problem with this. So do many of the doctors.” His concern stems from the familiarity the “General” name has with its community. Moreover, Dr. Carrie E. Greenspan, an obstetrics and gynecology doctor said, “Members of the community, particularly if they are new to the area, will not understand what ‘Broward Health – Coral Springs’ means. It could be a clinic, a medical office building, a laboratory, a diagnostic facility.”
While branding decisions can’t accommodate everyone, this staff reaction doesn’t bode well for the long-term success of the name. Contention so early suggests it will only be an uphill battle from here – and for a rebrand to be successful, every associate needs to be a brand ambassador.
But Broward staff members should consider themselves lucky, as some other hospitals are making even bolder naming changes. These include ‘Central DuPage Hospital’ and ‘Delnor Health System,’ which are uniting to become ‘Cadence Health’; ‘Catholic Healthcare West’ changing its name to ‘Dignity Health,’ and ‘Provena Health’ and ‘Resurrection Health Care’ combining to become ‘Present Health.’ But one look at top hospitals like The Mayo Clinic and Memorial-Sloane Kettering make it clear that a name alone cannot reposition a hospital’s brand.
Nike wouldn’t be ‘Nike’ without equating athletics to life and life to athletics. Apple wouldn’t be Apple without making innovation accessible for all people. In other words, name brands can’t exist without a strong positioning and a consistent culture across all touchpoints. So, the bigger question when it comes to hospital branding is, “How can a hospital who’s associated with disease, fear, and frustration align itself with joy, warmth, and comfort?” I’m not sure going from “General” to “Health” is going to do that heavy lifting…but at least it’s a start.