"The biggest metric was [that] we surveyed patients in our six county area and 1,200 individuals responded," said St. George. "There were questions asking folks how they felt about the healthcare providers that could provide care in those markets – would they choose to go to different organizations or were they satisfied with their care?"
Deciding on a name was one of the first steps in the journey to become a merged entity. Finding a new name for the organization was a longer process than the CEOs anticipated. Choosing a name was not like drawing names from a hat, but came from measurement of the communitiy's response and recognition.
"Because mergers are often laden with emotional responses in regard to branding, we found that the research-based process that our clients had decided upon up front was very useful – we recommend that others consider a similar process," said Don Giller, senior project director at BrandEquity.
Next the health systems had to figure out how to overcome their differences to align the three different cultures with community needs.
One of the immediate differences that must taken into account is the cultural differences between Northeast Health, a secular system, and St. Peter's Health Care Services, a faith-based system. To read the public's response, the systems held community town halls and eventually decided to build a separate hospital, not affiliated with the merged organization, to perform sterilizations and abortion procedures.
Another great challenge in the merger has been deciding the governance structure of the new organization.