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Clarian hospital system to adopt IU name

May 5, 2010

Clarian Health will change its name to Indiana University Health early next year, the Indianapolis-based hospital system announced Wednesday morning.

Clarian, which will leave intact the names of its oldest hospitals, is betting the IU name carries more punch around Indiana than its own corporate brand. It also hopes to use the IU name to create a national brand, after the model of the Cleveland Clinic or the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The Clarian name has existed for 14 years as the name of the not-for-profit joint venture formed when the Methodist Church and the IU School of Medicine merged their three Downtown hospitals—Methodist,  Riley Hospital for Children and the IU hospital.

But after a decade of acquisitions and aggressive building, Clarian now operates 16 hospitals around the state. It employs nearly 22,000 workers and has annual revenue of nearly $3.8 billion.

“Obviously, we’ve grown in size dramatically,” said Clarian CEO Dan Evans. But, he added, “The Clarian name and brand was not recognized by customers, referring physicians and others as a statewide academic system.”

Clarian gleaned that insight from surveys and focus groups of 1,400 patients, family members, doctors and staff. Evans said the results clearly showed the IU name meant more than the Clarian name.

“Whatever we lose in brand equity with Clarian,” Evans said, “we more than make up with the IU name.”

Others generally agreed.

Ed Abel, a hospital accountant at Indianapolis-based Blue & Co., said the name change could give Clarian a competitive boost.

“There’s obviously only one medical school in the state. They train a significant number of all the clinicians who practice in the state of Indiana,” he said. “It’s very significant.”

Clarian will retain the name of Methodist and Riley in Indianapolis, Ball Memorial in Muncie, and others. Those hospitals now put the words “A Clarian Health Partner” after their names. So they will likely just change that tagline to “An IU Health Partner,” Evans said.

But newer hospitals, such as the Clarian West Medical Center in Avon, would change to the IU Health West hospital, or something similar, Evans said. A hospital such as Goshen Hospital could change its name to IU Health-Goshen Hospital, he said.

Evans said an uncertain number of Clarian’s 40 different operating brands will go away. The names and other brand materials will be unveiled in the first quarter of 2011.

Jim Walton, president of Indianapolis-based Brand Acceleration, said the overall move makes sense. He also applauds Clarian for keeping the names of historic hospitals.

“That’s smart,” he said. “It carries a lot of weight in the local communities.”

His concern about the name change, however, is more for IU than for Clarian.

“You’re trying to hang two brands on one name. That has the potential to either strengthen both or weaken both,” he said. “I don’t think it necessarily creates confusion about what Indiana University Health is, but it creates confusion about what IU’s focus is [as a school].”

In a statement, IU President Michael McRobbie said, “Indiana University is very proud of its longstanding partnership with the Methodist Church … it is appropriate that the name reflect IU’s strong commitment to the partnership through the IU School of Medicine and IU’s other health science schools, and the vital mission of this partnership throughout the state.”

When Clarian formed on Jan. 1, 1997, the physician staffs of Methodist and IU hospitals fretted and feuded over which would be pre-eminent. But Evans said the new name does not reflect the victory of IU’s medical staff over Methodist’s.

“There are some folks that are uncomfortable being called by the other name. But for the vast majority,” he added, “that’s old stuff now.”
 

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