You know all about the shortages of primary-care physicians and healthcare services in rural areas, but have you given any thought to another serious shortage now being felt? Namely, the shortage of healthcare names.
With all of the mergers and new systems being created in this growing industry, original and innovative healthcare names-preferably ones that are localized or market-driven-are bound to be at a premium.
To track this fast-changing industry, the Schechter Group, a New York-based brand identity consulting group created the Name Change Index of Publicly Traded Companies.
"We're already running out of names," said David Martin, the firm's senior vice president and managing director of corporate identity, about the healthcare industry. "The healthcare arena is one of the most difficult environments from a marketing and legal standpoint."
In 1993, 122 publicly traded companies-18 of them healthcare-related-changed their name, according to the Name Change Index.
For example, Columbia Hospital Corp. changed its name to Columbia Healthcare after it merged with Galen Healthcare. The index already can log a change for 1994 when Columbia completes its merger with Hospital Corporation of America in February (and becomes Columbia/HCA Healthcare).
Other changes include nursing home chain National Heritage, which changed its name to Evergreen Healthcare, and National Rehabilitation Centers, which became Rehability Corp.
One of the most recent name changes apparently wasn't included in the 1993 because it just happened. The newly merged Healthcare International and HealthVest are now Healthcare America. The Austin, Texas-based hospital chain emerged from the bankruptcy reorganization of Healthcare International.
What's more, there are plenty of name changes taking place outside Wall Street. A recent example: Allina Health System, from the planned HealthSpan and Medica merger.
Our advice to you: Snatch up those names while you can.
Speaking of names. A new name will be up for vote this summer at the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists. Care to guess? That's right: The American Society of Health-system Pharmacists.
It was only a matter of time. Almost a decade ago, the Bethesda, Md.-based group decided to push its initials, ASHP, over its full name because of changing membership. Today, hospital pharmacists make up about 50% of its more than 27,000 members.
This year, ASHP opened a section for home-care practitioners.
A nose for new technology.Psst.|.|.|.|How'd you like to get in on the ground floor of the artificial nose industry? It may sound rather odd, but that's what Vencor, a Louisville, Ky.-based chain of 28 intensive-care hospitals, is doing.
Vencor recently bought 500,000 shares of Colorado MEDtech, a Boulder, Colo.-based medical products company that's developing the new "nose." The purchase price wasn't disclosed, although the company's shares trade over the counter at about $1.25. Vencor's investment represents a 9% stake in the company.
Up until now, Vencor has directed its capital into buying hospitals, rather than medical technology. Earl Reed, Vencor's chief financial officer, who acknowledged that the investment "is not part of our strategic plan," said Colorado MEDtech has an emerging technology that can help Vencor cut its costs and that may have widespread applications because of the rapid growth in subacute care.
So, what is this artificial nose? It's a heat and moisture exchange filter used on ventilators. The filter Vencor and other hospitals now use must be changed every day, but one that Colorado MEDtech is developing, which will still need to be changed daily, will cost 50% less because of its design. Mr. Reed wouldn't disclose how much that would amount to, but the product is expected to be ready in about six months.
Crisis management 101.You would think that most executives are capable of handling unexpected problems or negative media coverage that sometimes occurs involving their institutions. Right? Wrong, according to public relations guru Alan Caruba of The Caruba Organization in Maplewood, N.J.
With healthcare at the forefront of the political agenda, more hospital executives are finding both themselves and their institutions under the scrutiny of the media. Few of them feel in control during times of crisis, and fewer facilities employ comprehensive spin-control planning, Mr. Caruba said.
To rectify this, Mr. Caruba has developed "Don't Panic: An Instant Guide to Crisis Communications," which includes a 47-point crisis control checklist to help manage and respond to potentially damaging or negative news. The list includes tips such as writing a "Communication Crisis Control Policy" statement, establishing a crisis control office, providing members of the media with sufficient background information, and forbidding anyone in the organization from speaking "off the record" to the media.
Says Mr. Caruba: "The impact of media attention, often despite a long record of integrity and service, can prove devastating. However, it can be significantly mitigated by taking immediate, appropriate action to present information to the same public whose fears are being manipulated and exploited."