Columbus Regional changing its 'identity' amid new philosophy

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 14, 2013 

  • Contacting Columbus Regional

    Some things change, others stay the same:
    • All phone numbers remain the same
    • All email addresses change to (employee first name.lastname)@columbusregional.com
    • Website remains columbusregional.com
    • Facebook changes to facebook.com/columbusreg
    • Twitter account changes to @ColumbusReg

  • TIMELINE

    Here’s a timeline of Columbus Regional Health’s roots and dealings through the years:
    1836: First primitive hospital built on the banks of the Chattahoochee; called the “Pest House” because it was little more than a place for the diseased to go to die
    1895: Replacement facility is built in the Linwood area (Medical Center’s general vicinity)
    1915: City Hospital is built
    1973: A city facility evaluation is done and shows a need to build a new hospital and establish a hospital authority under which the hospital would operate. The authority was important because it enabled the hospital to compete in the market (a broader geographic region than Muscogee County only), free the hospital from politics, give it the ability to make long-term commitments to build facilities and provide needed medical services, and the ability to float revenue bonds, among other advantages.
    1975: Hospital goes from city ownership to a hospital authority structure
    1982: Hospital is replaced with current Medical Center
    1984: Authority board appoints structure committee to study external influences and trends and is tasked with considering and recommending alternatives for structure
    1986 (March): Committee/board recommends adopting a corporate structure, which requires certificate of need approval from the state. This positions the hospital to compete, expand its service area, expand sources of capital, lessen potential tax burden for indigent care, retain community accountability and keep financial reserves in community.
    1986 (June): Certificate of need is granted
    1986 (July): Columbus Regional Healthcare System is established
    2008: Columbus Regional acquires Doctors Hospital (March) and Hughston Hospital (July)
    Source: Columbus Regional Health

Columbus Regional Healthcare System, with the launch of its new "corporate identity," said it is changing or altering the names of its three hospitals and replacing the tagline it has used for years.

The Medical Center becomes Midtown Medical Center, Hughston Hospital will be Northside Medical Center and the third facility is now Doctors Specialty Hospital. The signage is expected to be changed by the end of this year or early 2014.

The current tagline, "Your Health. Our Mission," also is being replaced with "Pursue Your Healthy," a reference to a new focus on helping residents in the area live healthier lives and minimize the need for hospitalization, said Chuck Stark, president and chief executive officer of Columbus Regional Health.

The word "System" is also being dropped from the parent organization's name, while a new logo will feature a multicolored five-point star.

"Health care as we know it today and health care as we expect it to be in five years is much different," Stark said Friday. "Our new logo and new tagline reflect where health care is going and the leadership role we expect to play in helping to drive those positive changes within our community and within our region."

The changes are fairly sweeping for a health care organization that has served the Columbus area since the 1800s. The flagship Medical Center, where the vast majority of babies have been born in the area over three decades, was built in 1982 and has held that name since then.

Perhaps the most dramatic move is taking the name of the late orthopedic legend, Dr. Jack C. Hughston, off the front of Hughston Hospital, which Columbus Regional purchased in July 2008. It bought Doctors Hospital in March of that same year.

During evaluations and discussions with employees, physicians, board members and people in the community, there apparently was confusion about who owned the hospital, The Hughston Clinic in Columbus and Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital in Phenix City.

"One of the things we found in the consumer focus groups was that not one consumer could delineate between the facilities that had the Hughston name in them," said Frank Austin, Columbus Regional's senior vice president for strategy, marketing and public relations.

Thus, the decision was made to remove the Hughston name from the Columbus Regional hospital, which opened in 1984. The geographical location of the facility made the choice of "Northside" a natural, Stark said.

"We thought since it is on the north end of town, it is north Columbus," he said. "We looked at it and said this is really Harris County's hospital, and north Columbus' hospital."

Aside from the name, major changes for Northside include adding baby deliveries and setting up an emergency room, both of which require an approved certificate of need from the state of Georgia. An application likely will be filed next year, he said.

"We'll be going through those state regulatory processes to secure approval, but the design work for those services is well underway," he said.

Other name changes include altering Columbus Regional Physician Group to Columbus Regional Medical Group. Columbus Regional Medical Foundation becomes Columbus Regional Health Foundation. The John B. Amos Cancer Center, however, retains its name.

Stark said there will be no negative impact on the 2,800 full-time Columbus Regional employees. The bulk of those, more than 1,700, work at the now-Midtown Medical Center. Instead, he said, employees will have the opportunity to move freely between the various hospitals and facilities operated by Columbus Regional, he said.

Stark came to Columbus from Firelands Regional Health System in northern Ohio in February 2012. He quickly began an evaluation of the local health care system, which led to a new vision based on five values -- attitude, commitment, enthusiasm, innovation and teamwork.

"Our vision is to become nationally recognized for our clinical outcomes and our world-famous service," he said.

That led to a seven-month process that included various focus groups. Stark also wanted a more contemporary logo that would reflect the new direction in which he is taking Columbus Regional.

"I was hoping that we could create something that was more technicolor, something that was more vibrant and vivacious, and denoting what we were becoming as a health care system," he said.

The driving force behind the moves, however, is putting Columbus Regional in better position as health care evolves amid the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"The future is consumerism, where consumers are taking a more active role in health care decision making, where the cost of health care is increasingly being shifted from the employer to the employee, and where we have the opportunity to help the workers in the community and the employers in the community improve their overall health status," he said.

Future plans include launching a mobile health unit that will visit local employers and underprivileged areas of the city to offer health screenings and information, Stark said. There are hopes that a program can be set up in the local school system to encourage young students to exercise, eat better and, as they get older, avoid smoking.

Columbus Regional said the transition to its new brand and philosophy begins immediately and should take several months to complete.

Starting in October, the health care organization also plans to begin a public information campaign on the changes, including commercials.

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