North Shore-LIJ to rebrand as Northwell Health

Michael Dowling: Flying high.

The North Shore-LIJ Health System made it official Monday, announcing a major rebranding effort that starts with a new name for New York State’s largest employer.

As first reported by Innovate LI, the board of trustees of the iconic 21-hospital system is rechristening the system Northwell Health, a moniker that reflects the past and serves as a “beacon of our future,” according to President and CEO Michael Dowling.

“It’s unique, simple and approachable,” Dowling said in a statement. “It better defines who we are and where we are going.”

The change was announced internally Friday after being approved by the board Thursday. Officials held off on a public announcement in deference to the 9-11 anniversary, but a letter sent Friday to trustees from Dowling and board chairman Mark Claster said the new name was meant to emphasize the provider’s focus on wellness and to distinguish the system in a “cluttered health care market.”

The Northwell Health name, part of a broader rebranding and marketing campaign set to launch in 2016, “recognizes our evolution,” according to the letter, and “will help us become better known as the forward-thinking leader we are.”

No hospitals within the chain will be changing names, officials said. Instead, they will add phrases like “A Member of the Northwell Health System” to their existing names.

In a Monday phone conference, Dowling said the board of trustees unanimously approved the Northwell Health tag after system officials narrowed down a long list of 600 possible names. To avoid confusion, Dowling wouldn’t reveal any of the other names on the list, but did say officials trimmed the list first to 50 and then into the teens, noting a process that “accelerated dramatically over the last three months.”

“We decided not to make a quick decision,” the CEO told reporters.

Confusion was actually one of the main reasons for the long-anticipated name change, according to Dowling, who said the North Shore-LIJ tag did more harm than good insofar as establishing the health system’s increasingly regional, always non-secular nature.

“Some people would call us ‘North Shore,’” he said. “Some would call us ‘LIJ.’ [The name] didn’t provide the credibility that other parts of the health system deserved and needed.”

In a press release announcing the rebranding effort, Claster agreed that the new name – while maintaining links to the health system’s past (the “North” in “Northwell”) and emphasizing its focus on prevention and wellness – does not “confine us geographically.”

“[The rebranding] reflects our emergence as a regional healthcare provider with a coverage area that extends beyond Long Island,” the board chairman said – critical for a system that’s added multiple hospitals in New York City and Westchester County since forming 18 years ago.

Trustees last considered rebranding in 2010 as the system expanded into New York City and other regions, but stuck with the name they’d used since the historic 1997 merger between the North Shore Health System – which itself formed in 1992 – and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, which straddles Glen Oaks and Lake Success.

In less than two decades, Northwell Health has grown into the nation’s 14th-largest health system, including those 21 hospitals and roughly 450 outpatient physician practices. The system boasts more than 6,600 beds, employs more than 13,000 nurses and claims affiliations with more than 10,000 physicians across a multitude of practice areas and specialties.

The system has also grown to include the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research – a biomedical R&D arm established in 1999 that now includes over 1,500 scientists and other employees – and the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, which in 2010 became the state’s first new allopathic medical school in 40 years. This year, the school, which graduated its first class in May, will be renamed the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.

In 2013, the system also introduced the state’s first health system-based health insurance company, CareConnect, which has grown to include more than 26,000 members while generating $95.3 million in premium revenues over the first six months of 2015.

This month, the system also raised the curtain on the School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies at Hofstra University.

With a total workforce over 61,000 employees, the system – which boasts strategic alliances with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the Cleveland Clinic and other renowned domestic and international research institutions – is New York State’s largest private employer.

In addition to its mighty healthcare chops, the system has grown into an economic powerhouse. According to a financial report released earlier this month, the Great Neck-based system had a fiscally strong first half of 2015, including operating income of $52.7 million for the six months ending June 30 – up from $38.1 million over the first half of 2014 – and a 25-percent year-over-year increase in total operating revenue, to $4.2 billion.

Earlier this year, North Shore-LIJ began working with a trio of New York City marketing firms – the branding consultants Monigle and Interbrand and marketing communications experts JWT, formerly J. Walter Thompson – to develop the new brand strategy. The resulting name change and brand platform will help the system “elevate our reputation among consumers and medical professionals,” noted Ramon Soto, the system’s chief marketing officer.

“We have a powerful story to tell,” said Soto, who doubles as Northwell Health’s chief communications officer. “Our new name is the ideal platform to deliver that message.”

The larger rebranding effort will include new signage for all hospitals and affiliated facilities, Dowling said during Monday’s press conference, part of a marketing campaign that will stretch into the “tens of millions of dollars over time.”

Anticipating an imminent name change, health system officials have been “relatively silent in the marketplace” over the last two years, Dowling noted, but that’s all going to change come January.

“Very aggressive,” the CEO said, describing the forthcoming rebranding campaign and efforts to promote the “innovation and entrepreneurship of the health system, and what we want to be known as in the marketplace.”

2 Comments on "North Shore-LIJ to rebrand as Northwell Health"

  1. Terrible name change. It has no name cache, just ignores the name brand already built up, the logo is boring, and easily is twisted to become “NotWell Health.” The whole thing just smacks of something concocted in the corporate offices without good foresight. They could have had a nice naming contest, gotten the employees involved and built up enthusiasm. Instead it blindsided all the employees who uniformly hate the name.

  2. I agree with Bill Paxton – definitely decided at corporate, where nothing is shared with anyone, especially if you are under Carol Battaglia!

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