Hospital wants to replace 'Durham' with 'Duke'

Durham Regional thinks name change will improve business

jwise@newsobserver.comJanuary 9, 2013 

Those in charge want to take “Durham” out of Durham Regional Hospital’s name and put “Duke” in its place.

“They felt like taking advantage of the Duke brand would bring more business,” said Durham County Commissioners Chairman Fred Foster. “To get the recognition of Durham Regional being part of the Duke system.”

Durham Regional Hospital administrators and trustees made their case for a name change in one-on-one meetings with all five county commissioners and at a commissioners work session this week. A decision is due at Monday’s regular commissioners’ meeting.

Duke University Health Systems has managed the county-owned hospital since 1998. Durham Regional CEO Kerry Watson said that, while both hospitals are highly rated, the “Durham Regional” name “does not translate into recognition of the hospital as part of Duke.”

Opinion surveys of Durham County residents, particularly those new to the area, showed a distinct preference for Duke over Durham Regional as their hospital of choice, according to a summary presentation on the name change.

“There really were a lot of good reasons to support this change,” said Commissioner Michael Page.

In 2012, U.S. News and World Report magazine rated Duke the best hospital in North Carolina and Durham Regional fifth. Both, though, face strong competition from UNC Hospitals, which the magazine ranked second in the state.

Also, Page said, there remains a perception that regional and community hospitals do not deliver the same standard of service as research hospitals such as Duke.

“I understand the need to add ‘Duke,’ ” said Commissioner Ellen Reckhow, who was on the board when the hospitals’ merger was approved 15 years ago.

“It’s such a strong marketing brand, it would make a difference to the hospital.”

Duke and Durham Regional began talks on “collaboration for the future delivery of health care” in 1993 and the proliferation of “managed-care” insurance systems in the 1990s encouraged ever closer ties, particularly among Durham Regional’s roster of primary-care physicians and Duke’s high-tech research-hospital capabilities.

As merger talks progressed in early 1997, Richard Myers, then the director of Durham Regional, and the hospital’s medical staff said the Durham Regional name should be retained to emphasize its role as a community institution.

Marketing studies, though, indicated that, with the area’s changing demographics, the hospital is better positioned with a “Duke” identity than with a “Durham” one. The “Duke” name, administrators said, is also more attractive when recruiting physicians to work at the regional hospital.

Reckhow said she suggested “Duke-Durham Hospital” as an alternative, but Durham Regional’s board “felt they had done the research.”

Kathleen Galbraith, chief of hospital operations, acknowledged possible confusion over having two “Duke” hospitals in Durham but said administrators tested three names with focus groups: “Durham Regional,” “Duke Regional” and “Duke-Durham Regional.”

“By far, ‘Duke Regional Hospital’ was felt to be a name that conveyed what we wanted,” she said.

At the same time, Galbraith and Commissioner Wendy Jacobs said, it was important to emphasize the hospital’s “regional” nature and history. For that reason, the proposed masthead for “Duke Regional Hospital” includes the tagline, “Serving the community since 1976.”

“We all expressed concern it stays true to its mission as a community hospital,” said Jacobs. “We really didn’t want to lose ‘regional.’”

Wise: 919-641-5895

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service