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Brand-Aid: Hospital Giant Partners HealthCare Is Changing Names

Partners HealthCare at Assembly Row in Somerville (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Partners HealthCare at Assembly Row in Somerville (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

What's in a name?

In the case of Partners HealthCare, not much — at least, according to Greer Pearce, vice president of strategy at AMP Agency, a marketing firm in Boston.

The name Partners sounds "generic," she said. "It doesn't mean a lot to your average everyday person."

That may be one reason why, on Wednesday, the largest hospital system in Massachusetts announced that it would change its name to Mass General Brigham.

In a statement, Parnters president and CEO Anne Klibanski, said the goal is to create "the premier integrated health care system of the future, built on the strong reputations of our academic medical centers."

"I think it's smart," said Pearce. The new name, which is a mash-up of Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, carries the sheen of two of Partners' most famous facilities. In addition to being known for high quality medical care, the two hospitals are also the biggest in the Partners network.

At the same time, Pearce said, the re-brand may also be a way to reduce the negative "corporate" attributes that some may associate with Partners — for instance, its penchant for acquisition that has given it an effective monopoly in parts of the state or its reputation for high prices.

Although the Harvard-affiliated organization is a nonprofit, a 2018 report by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) found that hospitals in the Partners network hospitals charged significantly more for inpatient and outpatient services than other state health care networks.

"By re-branding, what you're able to do is shift away from the name of Partners that's more associated with some of that negative press and headlines around high prices," Pearce said.

At the same time, she pointed out that leveraging the names of two of the most renown hospitals in the state could help Partners justify its prices to insurers and patients.

In addition to attracting patients, the new name may also play a role in luring skilled employees to what is already the state's largest private employer. According to Partners, it has about 75,000 employees.

Why would striving physicians and nurses want to work for "Partners" when they could work for "Mass General Brigham?"

Beyond Mass General and Brigham and Women's, the Partners network includes at seven other hospitals, 25 community health centers and other medical service providers.

"They need a brand that is going to attract medical talent  to those places, too," Pearce said.

Related:

Adrian Ma Twitter Reporter
Adrian Ma is a reporter for WBUR's Bostonomix team.

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