North Shore-LIJ Health System announced it would drop the references to its origins in its name as the system rapidly expands.
North Shore-LIJ will spend “tens of millions of dollars” to brand the parent company of its 21 hospitals, employed doctors and health insurance arm as Northwell Health. The name change will be official in January.
The system is not the first hospital operator to bank on a name change to shed associations with its past as it pursues growth. San Francisco-based Dignity Health, for example, jettisoned the name Catholic Healthcare West when it severed its formal ties with the Roman Catholic Church.
Companies and organizations often find themselves in need of new identities as they grow and merge, said brand expert Matt Quint, director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia Business School.
But the risks of reinvention include squandering existing consumer loyalty to a name in favor of ones that mean little to old and new consumers alike. "They're less likely to forgive you," Quint said. New names also can unintentionally become easily targets for mockery, he said.
North Shore-LIJ felt constrained by a name that made specific geographic reference and the system's founding members. The letters LIJ in the system's name originated with Long Island Jewish Medical Center, which merged with North Shore Health System in 1997.
“We're obviously a much different place than we were,” said Michael Dowling, the system's CEO.
The system's recent string of announced or closed deals have consolidated its hold on Long Island and expanded its reach into Manhattan and Brooklyn. North Shore-LIJ also launched a health insurance company that has grown through enrollment in Affordable Care Act exchanges and employer-sponsored health plans.
The new name will help differentiate the system in a cluttered market, Dowling said, but individual shoppers in the federal health law exchanges were not the motive for the new brand.
Instead, the new name and branding campaign to formally launch in January will seek to promote the system's more diverse operations, which include long-term and home care, research and medical education as well as hospitals and clinics, he said. North Shore-LIJ “didn't provide the credibility that all of the other parts of the health system deserved and needed,” Dowling said.
The name Northwell Health was chosen to put an emphasis on wellness and health. It won the board's vote of confidence after officials whittled the list down to two from 600. Dowling declined to name any rejected names to avoid confusion.
The branding campaign will be aggressive, he said. In recent years, North Shore-LIJ's advertising campaign was more muted because officials knew the name change was coming.
Hospitals within the system will keep their names. "In recognition of their rich and unique community-based history, the names of our all our hospitals will remain intact," Dowling said.