By Buddy Nevins, BrowardBulldog.org
A plan to change the name of Broward General Medical Center, the county’s oldest hospital, and the names of three other public hospitals has physicians and others protesting.
Broward General will become Broward Health Medical Center, a change that will roll out this summer as part of an advertising campaign.
The three other public hospitals in the Broward Health system will lose the words “medical center” in their titles.
Coral Springs Medical Center will be Broward Health Coral Springs. Imperial Point Medical Center becomes Broward Health Imperial Point. North Broward Medical Center switches to Broward Health North.
The changes were approved late last month by a 4-3 vote of the governing board of Broward Health, North Broward’s tax-supported public hospital system, whose legal name is the North Broward Hospital District. The district adopted the new name in 2007.
Not everyone is happy about it, especially at Broward General, which celebrates its 75th birthday on January 2.
“Broward General is a historic place. Broward General was the first hospital in Broward and has a historic name. Just a few years ago we were advertising that ‘I am a Broward General baby’ and now we are doing away with the name,” said David Di Pietro, a hospital commissioner who voted against the change. “I have a real problem with this. So do many of the doctors.”
BRANDING TRUMPS HISTORY
Broward General was the county’s first public hospital, built in a remodeled apartment building with space for 45 patients. In 2010, it had 716 licensed beds, making it one of the nation’s top 20 largest public hospitals, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.
The name change is intended to downplay the perception of Broward General as a public hospital.
Commissioner Richard Paul-Hus said too many prospective patients stay away from Broward General because they believe it is a facility for the uninsured.
“The idea was to create a brand that doesn’t suggest a public hospital,” Paul-Hus said.
Sara Howley, Broward Health’s marketing vice president, agreed that was part of the reason for the change.
“People say, ‘That’s where you go when you don’t have insurance.’ We want them to understand we are so much more and by better marketing we can do that.”
Howley said streamlining the hospital names were necessary in an extremely competitive environment. She said it would enable the system to have more effective marketing campaigns unifying every hospital under the shorter, more memorable name Broward Health.
Howley pointed out that the University of Miami Health Systems, which has moved into Broward County, is now known as UHealth. The county’s other public hospital system, the South Broward Hospital District, changed its business name to Memorial Healthcare Systems years ago.
“Our names today are very long,” Howley said.
There has been a 56 percent increase in the name recognition of the four North Broward public hospitals in the five years since the conversion to the Broward Health name.
She expects such recognition to increase with the renaming.
The renaming of the hospitals is the second phase of a five-year long business conversion of the North Broward Hospital District into Broward Health. It was arrived at with the help of a strategic planning consultant and extensive research that included phone surveys and focus groups.
“The word ‘general’ did not test well,” Howley said. “People didn’t know what it meant in that context. So all we are doing is changing the word ‘general’ to ‘health’. One word is changing.”
One word is too much for some.
“Broward General is a recognized brand and much of our staff was born there. Many of our physicians are against this change,” said one doctor who practices at the hospital and asked that his name not be used.
Physicians at other hospitals also had problems with new titles.
Dr. Carrie E. Greenspan is an obstetrics and gynecology doctor and chief of staff at Coral Springs Medical Center representing 500 physicians. She said doctors at her hospital were against losing the words “medical center” in the name.
“The way the renaming is proposed makes it sound like the only real medical center of BH (Broward Health) is the current Broward General, and that the other facilities are some sort of undefined subsidiaries, with unclear purpose. We all agreed that taking away the name ‘medical center’ from the other facilities takes away the status conferred by that title,” she wrote the commission in January.
“We believe that moving forward with the proposed changes would be a very big mistake,” she wrote. “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.”
Clarence McKee, another commissioner opposed to the plan, lamented that the hospital system was not listening to physicians like Dr. Greenspan.
“The name “Medical Center” carries prestige and is important to our present and future physicians who bring us patients. This is one case where the views of our physicians should have been given more weight as they are key stakeholders–without them we would not exist,” McKee said.
Howley, who is married to a Broward Health physician, called the protests from physicians “turf protection….We’ve had resistance from doctors. Doctors don’t tend to like change. Five years ago they didn’t like the name Broward Health and now they say it is great.”
The renaming will cost about $750,000 over four years. Some of the hospital signs were already wearing out and needed replacement anyway, Howley said.
Stationery, medical forms, lab coats and other items with the hospital names on them will be replaced when the existing stocks run out. The cost of this is not included in the estimate because they would have been replaced anyway, she said.
Di Pietro said they change should have waited until after the 2012-2013 budget was set in the fall.
“I wonder if we should spent $750,000 now,” he said. “We should wait until budgeting is complete and see what vital services we need to preserve.”
Paul-Hus said now was the time to spend the money.
“We’re in a competitive situation,” Paul-Hus said. “If this was my business, I would do it.”