A Money Mission

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders News , October 17, 2007

In the October issue of HealthLeaders magazine, I wrote about naming hospitals for large corporate benefactors--as did the newly-christened Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, OH, which is named for the Nationwide Insurance Company. They also named their trauma center after local clothing manufacturer Abercrombie & Fitch. The corporations gave the hospital $50 million and $10 million, respectively.

On the one hand, hospitals and health systems are, ultimately, businesses. Granted, they are businesses with an important and honorable mission. But marketers know that there's no mission without money. I think most healthcare consumers, at some level, understand that, too. A name change probably isn't going to make your patients and referring doctors think less of you.

On the other hand? Yikes. There's so much that could go wrong when you name your hospital or a part of your hospital for a corporation that is, after all, run by fallible human beings and influenced by unpredictable market forces. Massive layoffs, product recalls, lawsuits, insider trading, sex scandals. It's a huge risk.

As usual, it comes down to branding. Do you treat your own brand as a valuable resource that must be protected at all costs? Or do you take a calculated risk that nets you more resources. . .and the ability to help more patients? For its part, Nationwide will continue to try to do both.

"We have many areas available for naming," foundation president Jon Fitzgerald told me in an interview for the magazine. "It's a strategy we'll continue to pursue."

Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at gshaw@healthleadersmedia.com.

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