Help the Northfield Hospital rename itself

The April minutes of the Northfield Hospital board meeting show that they’re considering a new name and that they’re willing to spend up to $40K to decide.

Ken Bank reviewed the proposal to conduct a market study to guide decision-making regarding possible organizational name changes (copy attached). The scope of services we offer is far beyond that of a typical hospital. Administration met with representatives from Neuger Communication to discuss the concept of a name change.

As a result of the discussions, Neuger’s recommendation is that we conduct the proposed market study to gain information that would help us guide such decisions. The cost of the market study and recommendations from Neuger would not exceed $40,000 and would most likely be $25,000-$30,000. Dixon Bond and Brett Reese voiced reservations about the cost and timing of this study. Ken Bank felt strongly that the current name is limiting when we offer regional services.

A motion was made, seconded and passed to approve a market study conducted by Neuger Communications at a cost not to exceed $40,000. Dixon Bond, Terry Gilbertson and Brett Reese voted against the study.

The Northfield News had a blurb about this in last week’s paper titled What’s in a name? They reported that the vote was 6-2 and that “Two board members, Dixon Bond and Brett Reese, voted not to approve the study.” Looking at the minutes, it appears that the vote was actually 5-3 since John Lundblad did not attend. Terry Gilbertson also voted against it but evidently did not voice an opinion.

So how about we help! Suggest a name here.

My vote: Ken Bank’s Body Shop Cannon Valley Health System.

The minutes also show that “March revenues were $807,000 under-budget.” Yikes. I wonder if that trend is continuing and whether spending up to $40k at this point is a good idea.


  1. Anne Bretts said:

    YIKES! That’s a lot under budget. Where are they for the year to date? They predicted some losses due to the expense of building, staffing and marketing the new clinics, but that sounds like a big loss. How close are they on their long-range financial plan?
    On the name change…pretty common. Wausau (WI) Hospital felt it had to rename itself when it gobbled up lots of small clinics and became a regional player. It chose Aspirus, which drew a lot of ridicule when it was proposed (after a big marketing study) but has taken hold. People like to identify with ‘their’ hospital, so having a name that isn’t the name of a rival town is a common reason for renaming.
    I do like your suggestion. Will Neuger have to pay you a cut if it comes up with the same thing?

    June 10, 2008
  2. Let’s just save time and give Griff the $40,000 for his “Cannon Valley Health System” name. Or, perhaps, my suggestion, “Cannon Valley Health Care” instead of “System.” I’ll take my cut in cash, to pay for the $4/gallon gas prices.

    June 10, 2008
  3. Patrick Enders said:

    Cannon Valley Health System is a pretty good name.

    Of course, it does closely resemble the name of our partner clinic in Faribault (the one that actually signs my paycheck), Canon Valley Clinic – Mayo Health System.

    June 10, 2008
  4. Will Craig said:

    “Little Hospital on the Prairie”

    June 10, 2008
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    James Younger Health Care; Ytterboe Health System; Castle Rock Medical System.

    June 10, 2008
  6. John S. Thomas said:

    Why don’t they SELL the naming rights, like they do the stadiums?

    Wells Fargo or TCF Hospital.
    The Pampers Birthing Center.
    Pfiser Pharmacy.

    I am being sarcastic. I think that this is REALLY silly. 😎

    We all know that Northfield Hospital has more services than just the hospital, but spending $40K to find a new name, then the huge expense of the name change seems like a tough change.

    I would love to see the cost benefit analysis on this one…

    June 10, 2008
  7. kiffi summa said:

    Have to agree with John Thomas on this one… Couldn’t believe what I was reading when I saw the little blurb in the paper.
    How many possibilities are there to justify a 40K bill?
    What are all the peripheral costs, as John suggests, i.e. signage , stationary, information brochures, other advertising, uniforms , on and on and on…
    If the staff and bosrd can’t come up with the new name … IF it must have a new name… then I think the council should be providing more than their usual “Hands-off” oversight of this city owned hospital…

    And that’s important, this hospital is owned by the “city”, that’s all of YOU;If they don’t want to reflect that, maybe they should cut loose?
    And that’s opening a can of worms again…

    June 10, 2008
  8. Arlen Malecha said:

    Since the Hospital is owned by the city (and therefore the people of the city) why not have a local contest to offer suggestions on the new name. There can be a disclaimer in the contest rules that the Hospital Board can reject all entries if they see fit.

    The winner could be given a cash prize of some sort not to exceed $250. I bet you cup of coffee and a donut that we would get a winning entry without having to spend $40,000.

    It simply amazes me that we would need to allocate $40K to come up with a name.

    June 10, 2008
  9. kiffi summa said:

    Forgot something that is of concern, in my previous comment… if the April minutes are the last one you found at the library, Griff, I find that to be the usual process, but unacceptable. The Hospital’s minutes are always two months behind; it has been explained to me by the librarians that the hospital will not submit their “draft” minutes, as others do, so by the time they submit their approved minutes, it is at least two months.

    Doesn’t look like transparency to me…

    I hope the Charter Commission hurries up with their hospital chapter clarifications…

    June 10, 2008
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    The Hospital has 5 clinics which it markets with a separate name and web address:

    FamilyHealth Medical Clinics, A service of Northfield Hospital

    FamilyHealth Medical Clinics are owned and operated by Northfield Hospital. Cannon Valley Clinic—Mayo Health System provides most physician services. This unique partnership allows us to provide personalized, community-based care with the support, expertise and resources of Mayo Health System.

    As long as the partnership with Mayo Health System remains in place, would it make sense to create another branded Health System?

    June 10, 2008
  11. Northfield Hospital 2.0

    Hospital of Northfield

    The Recuperatory

    Thee Northfield Hospital

    New! Improved! Northfield Hospital


    The Curatorium

    Hale Hall

    June 10, 2008
  12. Nick Benson said:

    The first name that jumped to my mind was the “Contented Cadaver,” but that’s probably a better name for a funeral home.

    June 10, 2008
  13. Barbara Gentling said:

    I’ll sell my rights to CARE TENDERS for less than $40k!

    This is absolutely ridiculous…$40K plus the cost of
    implementation. With 47% of Minnesotans uninsured or
    underinsured. Do you think there’s a relationship between hospital costs & this folly??? Ken Bank or whoever came up with this idea has too much time on
    their hands & NOT ENOUGH TO D0.

    Or is “someone” advocating for this hiding their perceived interest? It would not be the first time
    when it comes to the hospital. In my 21 years of
    residency I’ve seen & heard way too much that has
    been questionable concerning the hospital.

    June 10, 2008
  14. David Koenig said:

    A few quick comments:

    1. The price quoted in the post above is not out of line with what any firm would charge for the research on a name change, or naming of a company. It might seem like a lot of money, and is a lot of money relative to other things, but the impact of a good brand name is substantial in financial terms. For a multi-million dollar business, this is a small investment. However;

    2. The plan for the Northfield Hospital to offer more than hospital services has been in place for at least 7 years. A good plan for such growth should have included planned rebranding at the start. So, is this rebranding idea a result of incomplete planning or is the plan not working and now we’re looking for a brand name change to shake things up?

    Griff, do you know if the Hospital financials are posted online anywhere? Are they in the library? I recall that the Hospital made about $3MM per year in profit/surplus before the new plan (new hospital, expanded clinics and services, etc) was put in place. What has its annual profitability been since the plan was started?

    June 11, 2008
  15. kiffi summa said:

    Hospital Board minutes are in the Library, David, with the rest of the city Boards and commissions, in the Pye Room. But as I said they are two months old. Good luck finding the information you want in them.

    The hospital is obligated to do a financial report to the council; once a year, is it? Maybe there is more info in that financial report; Kathleen MacBride should be able to say when the last reporting came to the council.

    June 11, 2008
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    Jane, I’ve moderated your comment because of your disparaging tone (calling their decision ‘stupid’) and namecalling ( ‘dummies’).

    While it’s true that no members of the Hospital board or staff are participating here, they might… and I’d like them to feel welcome to do so. They deserve to be treated in a civil manner like anyone else here.

    Can you try again?

    June 11, 2008
  17. You’ve heard of the $64,000 question. The new name should obviously be:

    The $40,000 Answer

    Who among us wouldn’t take on this contract for half that? Do I hear a quarter? Perhaps they need to be told to take that $40k and put it in the rainy day fund?

    June 11, 2008
  18. Anne Bretts said:

    I agree with David K. that the price for these professional services isn’t out of line. And the money is going to a local firm committed to staying in Northfield when there is not nearly enough local work to justify such a decision.
    It’s fine to disagree with the hospital’s spending choice, but ridiculing local professionals is hardly good sportsmanship, especially from people who are asking us to spend more than we need to in order to keep their businesses open. Branding the system successfully outside Northfield to customers familiar with Allina, Fairview and other giants will be key to the hospital’s viability, so $40,000 is a relatively small investment.
    Public relations, marketing, design and strategy are difficult jobs, particularly in this day and age. A little respect and civility are in order.
    That said, I have lots of questions about the hospital strategy used in justifying the new hospital, the resulting competition with Allina and the introduction of Mayo Clinic into the market. Lots of others raised questions when I wrote an industry store about it last year. It will be interesting to see how the economics work out now that residential growth has screeched to a halt and competition is tougher than ever.

    June 11, 2008
  19. Felicity Enders said:

    The Wellstone Health System

    I hadn’t heard about this idea, but given that several partner clinics are not in Northfield (and also not near the Cannon river), it does make sense to change the name. But I sure wish it could be done without spending $40K.

    June 11, 2008
  20. Gabriel Rholl said:

    Naming it after Paul Wellstone would be a fabulous idea. I agree with Felicity.

    June 12, 2008
  21. Anne Bretts said:

    The Wellstone system would be a lovely tribute, but it probably wouldn’t be a successful marketing tool. And in a tough healthcare market, this is all about making more money.

    June 12, 2008
  22. Bruce Morlan said:

    For $40K they will get a name (which we all have offered) and a story and a logo and a rollout proposal. If they don’t, they should.

    So I offer:

    * Cannon Valley Caring Center (or “Care Center”)
    * Cannon Valley Caring Center is a holistic health enterprise addressing environmental, choice and genetic impediments to a healthy life by working with community to reduce the impact of environment on health, working with individuals to reduce the impact of poor life-style choices on health and mitigating uncontrollable genetic predispositions.
    * CVCC (oops) logo incorporates a river, a farm, a mill (ala Dundas) and a college image. A full image is detailed, but a low-res “Nike slash” would be a good complement.
    * Rollout (hey! I don’t work for free here)

    How about offering the $40K AFTER delivery, and choose from the offered packages whether that package is a Madison Avenue Monstrosity or an ArtTech class project?

    June 12, 2008
  23. Bruce, CVCC differs only slightly from CVEC (Cannon Valley Elder Collegium). Maybe a partnership for a mind AND body enterprise?

    June 12, 2008
  24. Anne Bretts said:

    Caring center is too much like care center, the modern term for a nursing home. The logo says a lot about a lot (busy) and nothing about modern healthcare technology. It appeals to people who already know about the area, but the images don’t say anything to newcomers (new customers). It doesn’t say anything to Twin Cities transplants in Lakeville who must choose between scooting five minutes north to Burnsville or heading further south to a smaller hospital in Northfield — and be willing to travel all the way to Mayo for more serious care (a health system is a continuum and Northfield has tied its fortunes to Mayo…a real marketing risk given the geographic distance, time and gas costs to get treatment in Rochester.
    So you see, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. You aren’t imagining a logo to please Northfield oldtimers but to draw new customers and convince them that the care is worth their time and money.

    June 12, 2008
  25. Jane Moline said:

    OK, it is mean of me to take overworked volunteer board members to task and call them mean names. I didn’t notice any editing on your part, tho Griff, so I guess you let me slip by so everyone can see how uncouth I get when I am riled up.

    This is really a decision that requires serious discussion by the the hired administrator and the board, not a “marketing study” that spends taxpayer money to conclude what a few reasonable (and might I say, otherwise intelligent) people.

    The administrator and the board need to think carefully on what is important–

    1. Keeping or losing the Northfield name? (Lots of taxpaying residents are going to resist removal of the people who pay for the budget shortfall from the name.)

    2. Trying for a name that some other clinic already uses (like “Cannon Valley”.) Not likely.

    3. Pick a name that doesn’t say Northfield but that a few cranky Reagan Republicans will hate–like “Wellstone” (which is real genius because not only does it honor our fallen hero, Paul, but it also has the word “Well” in it, which has got to be good for any hospital.)

    No matter what, hiring consultants is a cop-out on the part of professional staff and the board of directors. (Kudos to those that voted against.)

    This decision should be revistited so it can be voted down.

    I disagree with Anne Bretts. This hospital should not be about making money. It should be about not losing our shirts when we MUST provide care for our uninsured and under-insured community.

    If they can spend 40K on marketing studies they can spend 40K on treating drug-addicts.

    June 12, 2008
  26. Anne Bretts said:

    Jane, if you don’t make money you can’t afford to offer care to the uninsured, unless you want to make this a taxpayer-subsidized charity.

    June 12, 2008
  27. Britt Ackerman said:

    Felicity’s suggestion, the Wellstone Health Center, is my favorite (serious) suggestion.

    I think that the Wellstone Health Center would not be a bad marketing tool. If he were still alive, it would be a politicized name. However, after his untimely death even the staunchest of Republicans praised his honest dedication.

    Those who disagreed with him still have to admit that he believed in what he was doing, and had to respect him for his public service.

    People don’t shop for their health care based on the name or the marketing or the color scheme of their publications. They look for doctors they trust and take referrals from doctors they trust. They look for proven excellence.

    When my father had his heart surgery in April, he went to Mercy in Sioux City. We’re not Catholic, and it’s a Catholic hospital, and I don’t care for the imagery on their website–doesn’t make me want to “buy their product”. We went there because it was ranked the #1 hospital in Iowa for overall cardiac services. Their heart center is the best in that area. Their heart surgeons are the best in the area. Dad’s general physician recommended that he go there.

    I made a donation after he lived because I was so grateful to the wonderful nurses, doctors, and other staff who took care of him (and me!) so kindly. I wouldn’t have given any less or more if I liked their imagery or their name more.

    The best marketing in the health care industry is proven excellence. That’s why there’s so much impetus to the Mayo “brand”; because it’s literally world-renowned. It’s concerning when the News runs a front page story informing us that the Department of Health has found that the hospital twice violated regulations regarding patient care by allowing police to taser patients. Heaven help me, if I’m out of control due to a mental or chemical issue, tie me down and physically restrain me but please don’t shock me with a taser. The electrodes are barbed to penetrate your clothing and lodge in your skin, so you can be repeatedly shocked at the press of a button. People really do die from being tased.

    The News also ran a story recently which reflected that the hospital had scored “average” in the Minnesota Hospital Quality Report.

    June 12, 2008
  28. Jane Moline said:

    Anne Bretts, in comment #28 you infer that I do not understand basic economics. I am insulted by your trite comment. Yes, hospitals can and do offer excellent care without making a profit. That is why they are community owned or otherwise not-for-profit owned.

    One of serious problems with the USA health care system is the for-profits that continually add expensive layers to the cost of health care, including consultants and beauraucratic insurance middle-man agencies (United Health) where administrators receive excessive pay. This continual chasing of the buck is harmful to the hospital and to the community. Chasing the buck put the hospital out-of-town and further away from the community it serves–and now they want to distance themselves even more in order to appeal to people living in Lakeville. Give me a break.

    Anne and David Koenig, you both miss the entire point when you say that the Northfield Hospital paying $40.000 for a market study is “not out of line.” It is only “not out of line” if you are a consultant.

    40 thousand is 40 thousand of real money, not play money. It is out of line for our not-for-profit, community supported and subsidized hospital to pay for some consultant to make decisions when we already employ highly-compensated individuals, who should be doing something more than hiring expensive consultants to make decision for them. They should be making a recommendation to the board, and the board should DISCUSS the recommendation of the staff and make a decision.

    The first step should be to lay out what it will really cost to change the name so that everybody knows how much we are talking about. Legal documents, signs, promotional literature, new logo, stationary, website–the list goes on and this is going to be one expensive decision. Then the board can say whether they want to go to bat for this expensive change–and when that decision is made, they can see if they really need any market study or if they already have a good name in mind.

    This one is easy–don’t change the name until we can afford to change the name–but figure out what that cost is before you start the study.

    June 12, 2008
  29. Barbara Gentling said:

    Way to go Jane!!! I totally agree.

    June 12, 2008
  30. Anne Bretts said:

    Jane, I’m so sorry. I never meant that you didn’t understand basic economics, I guess I just misunderstood your comment, “This hospital should not be about making money. It should be about not losing our shirts when we MUST provide care for our uninsured and under-insured community.” Perhaps you can explain what you meant in more detail because I’m quite puzzled.
    On the value of a consultant, I think we can just agree to disagree. I think being an expert in healthcare management is much different from being an expert in marketing, advertising and communications. You seem to infer that marketing and communications can be done by anyone with common sense, which I find insulting to the professionals I know and work with, although I’m sure you didn’t mean it to be.
    Britt, Wellstone is a fine name for a new library or a government building or a wing of the hospital, but I think it would be problematic in conveying the identity of a health care system. It would require so much explanation that it would get in the way of the message.
    I agree that quality of care is important, and the hospital needs to polish its performance ratings. But there are other factors. Northfield Hospital is in a very precarious position, geographically, population wise and competitively. It may be a very fine hospital, but if people in northern Lakeville can use a fine hospital with the same or more services five minutes away in Burnsville, then it is at a competitive disadvantage. Lakeville patients who are willing to drive 30 minutes to Northfield Hospital have to travel another hour to Mayo for the next level of care when they can drive less than 45 minutes total to major hospitals in Minneapolis. That puts Northfield at a competitive disadvantage. And while Mayo is well-known around the world, it is less of a brand name in the Twin Cities market than it is in Wisconsin or Iowa. There are studies that back this up.
    Drawing patients from the south means going up against Faribault and Owatonna, which have (or are building) new hospitals in conjunction with major healthcare chains with known brands (Mayo and Allina.)
    This is a very complicated situation…and there are millions of dollars at stake. The study isn’t just about changing the name for the sake of change, it’s about finding a name and a message that best explain how good the system is and creating an identity with people who don’t know or care about Northfield, or Wellstone for that matter. This isn’t about a town or a person, it’s about building a brand that matches what’s behind it.

    June 12, 2008
  31. kiffi summa said:

    Let’s make everybody happy … What about : “Northfield’s Wellstone Health Care System” ?

    June 13, 2008
  32. William Siemers said:

    “Wellstone” might not have much appeal to Republicans. On the other hand it could be a selling point…differentiation in the marketplace and all that. A hospital especially for liberals…”Progressive Care for Progressive People!”…”Where BoBos get Better” “We Know What’s Best For You!”

    Or maybe the hospital should sell the naming rights… How about the MaltoMealioration Health Center???

    June 13, 2008
  33. Patrick Enders said:

    We could just go with “Pawlenty Health Care: you already get more than you deserve, and foreigners seeking medical care here will be deported.”

    June 13, 2008
  34. Arlen Malecha said:

    It seems to me that all of this re-branding talk should have taken place before the decision was made to build a new hospital on the outskirts of town and in Dakota County. I agree that we are up against Allina and Mayo but did we not have the chance to partner with them early on? Now we are trying to compete against them. I don’t claim to know all the facts about that decision making but again it seems to me that that should have been part of the overall discussion before ground was broken on the new hospital.

    Will this mean that all the new clinics the Hospital has built will now operate under this one name as well?

    And Jane makes a great point on the ‘over all’ cost of rebranding. I did not even think about the underlying costs (legal docs, signs, letterhead, etc). That will be another huge chuck of money as well.

    June 13, 2008
  35. Anne Bretts said:

    Arlen, you’re right that there seem to be questions about the underlying assumptions in building a new hospital. The location is not convenient to locals and is invisible to other communities. Most healthcare systems take great pains to be on major highways for traffic, convenience and visibility. They also look for ‘medical campus’ situations, where there are complementary – and competing – health clinics and services nearby (like car dealers flocking to a single area). Because Allina was in place, that growth happened to the south.
    There’s no retail, no business district near the hospital, nothing to build traffic, create an identity or make the area a destination.
    The hospital partnered with Mayo and is competing with Allina. Mayo and Allina are in a big battle for the ‘gray area’ between Allina’s Twin Cities market and Mayo’s dominance in the southern part of the state. The situation takes a rather interesting twist in Owatonna, where both systems operate and there was a desperate need for a hospital (too far from Rochester or Twin Cities facilities) Allina and Mayo actually are partnering in that hospital.
    Yes, healthcare is an interesting industry right now, and small hospitals have to team up with big players to survive.

    I wasn’t here when the hospital decision was made, but some analysts question the rationale for the size and placement of the facility. Perhaps the market only needed a

    June 13, 2008
  36. Anne Bretts said:

    Sorry, I meant to delete that last paragraph. Since it’s there, the last sentence should note that I wonder whether an scaled down urgent care facility in conjunction with Allina might have been a better decision…Of course, Mayo is a strong partner, so this gamble may pay off.

    June 13, 2008
  37. William Siemers said:

    Good to see that you agree about the inadvisability of branding commercial enterprises with polarizing political labels.

    June 13, 2008
  38. John S. Thomas said:

    I would have to say that I agree with many of Britt’s points in #28.

    However, I really don’t concern myself with the “branding” of the hospital. I would like quality professionals and staff, and let that stand on its merits.

    I would much rather see $40,000 spent on training and staff development to perpetually “raise the bar” on the quality of patient care.

    June 13, 2008
  39. Margit Johnson said:

    I suggest you keep it simple:


    for the main facility. It’s concise, it tells you where it is (unlike District One or Abbott Northwestern…), and it’s known.

    For the clinics, e.g. Lonsdale:

    Lonsdale Medical Clinic

    And if you’re looking for a distinctive look or logo, go the Carleton College route – they copyrighted a special font for “Carleton College” and that became their logo, the name of the college.

    June 16, 2008
  40. Anne Bretts said:

    Ah, Margit, therein lies the problem…the name is known to you, but may not mean much to a Minneapolis or New Jersey transplant to Lakeville, New Prague or Farmington. And how prominent should the Mayo name be? Should it dominate or just be part of the tagline?
    This whole naming thing is quite a complicated thing. The right decision can mean huge financial gains, the wrong one won’t mean losses, just lost opportunity. Unfortunately, you don’t see the value of a good marketing campaign until after it’s completed.

    June 17, 2008
  41. kiffi summa said:

    I don’t know, Margit, seems pretty straightforward to me … NORTHFIELD HOSPITAL i.e., a hospital located in Northfield, which by the simplicity of its name suggests it is owned by the City of Northfield.
    Which it is…
    For now, at least.

    June 17, 2008
  42. Arlen Malecha said:

    It seems to me like we were hit with the old “bait and switch” ~ Let’s build a new Northfield Hospital. Now we get hit with the idea of renaming our hospital.

    Again I ask, why wasn’t this brought up in the discussion of building a new hospital? I don’t think this was an after thought but rather a finely crafted timeline. What comes next the idea of selling off the hospital? Or has that already been proposed?

    Who is to say that the name Northfield or Northfield Hospital could not be built into a brand? The Mayo clinic was named after the founders and is known the world over. Who is to say the hospital shouldn’t be named after its founders — oh wait it is — and that would be the people of Northfield.

    So rather than spending $40K trying to rename the hospital lets spend the $40K and turn the name Northfield into a brand known all over the world. Okay, okay we can start by making it known throughout the region first.

    Let’s not short-change the good name of Northfield.

    PS – I was at the hospital the other day and noticed all the items (bed sheets branded with the hospital name, signs, water jugs, etc) that would have to be redone. It will easily take a few hundred thousand just to redo / replace those items.

    June 17, 2008
  43. Will Craig said:

    Thanks to USA Today (actually yesterday), Northfield Hospital is a brand that is known all over the world.

    MINNESOTA: Northfield – “Northfield City Hospital has been cited by the state Health Department…”

    June 18, 2008

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