Partners HealthCare, the state’s largest health care system, announced Wednesday that it will change its name after 25 years to Mass General Brigham — an effort to unify the sprawling organization and expand by highlighting the strength of its flagship teaching hospitals.
The new corporate brand name is meant to reflect Partners’ best known assets, the renowned Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Partners executives, who spent the last several months considering a name change, said the decision is based on feedback from patients and employees, and “extensive market research.”
Dr. Anne Klibanski, Partners’ chief executive, described the new brand name as key to Partners’ strategy of working together as a more integrated health system.
“This is an opportunity to show who we are, and really create the leading academic health care system, which is centered around patients,” Klibanski said in an interview. “The name Partners — it really doesn’t mean very much to patients. We are a system that builds on the identity of our world class academic medical centers.”
The Partners board approved the new name in a vote on Tuesday, but Klibanski said it could be months before the company unveils a new logo, begins replacing building signs, and making other visible changes.
In all, the changes could cost as much as $100 million or more, depending on how elaborate the rebranding turns out to be, according to people familiar with the estimates.
“It is and will be a thoughtful and deliberate process,” Klibanski said.
She said the new name should help alleviate confusion for patients by clarifying which doctors and hospitals are part of the same health care system.
Partners was founded in 1994 when Mass. General and the Brigham joined together under one parent company to counter powerful insurers. But in the ensuing two and a half decades, the two academic medical centers sometimes continued to compete with each other.
The corporate rebranding will allow Mass. General and the Brigham to keep their individual hospital names, Partners officials said. It’s unclear if the company will seek to change the names of its many community hospitals, which include North Shore Medical Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and Cooley Dickinson Hospital.
The rebranding amounts to Klibanski’s highest-profile move since she took the top job at Partners in February. She described the effort as “an investment” and said the costs have not been finalized.
The nonprofit health system’s decision to change its name drew immediate pushback. Some people with knowledge of the deliberations at Partners questioned whether rebranding would help integrate a system with a history of rivalry and tensions, while others questioned the decision to spend heavily on rebranding, given that all health care providers are facing pressure to control costs.
“It’s hard to say how we, the public, or Massachusetts residents are truly better off from the rebranding,” said Dr. Paul Hattis, professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine.
Nonetheless, Hattis predicted that Partners would recoup the expenses by drawing additional out-of-state patients, or by demanding higher reimbursements from insurers.
Partners plans to begin the rebranding process right away, though it could take years to complete, given the size of the organization.
The Partners name is now used on hospitals and corporate office buildings, e-mail addresses, websites, business cards, electronic health records, and patient bills. Yet many Partners leaders feel the name does not resonate with patients — or has been tainted by negative headlines.
Partners — also the state’s largest private employer, with some 75,000 employees — has been criticized for charging high prices for its medical services and for trying to grow too aggressively through acquisitions. It was the subject of past state and federal antitrust investigations.
The company’s name change comes after two of its rivals merged earlier this year and launched a new health system called Beth Israel Lahey Health. But Partners also competes for patients from across the United States, as well as other countries.
As they announced the new name, Partners executives also outlined a five-year strategic plan, which aims to reinforce the system’s reputation as the “go to” place for medical care. The company also plans to “consolidate and expand” its impact on national and international health while providing “affordable” primary and behavioral care in local communities.
Under its previous chief executive, Dr. David Torchiana, Partners began to rethink the organization’s brand, governance, capital priorities, and other areas. Torchiana stepped down unexpectedly earlier this year after clashing with other Partners leaders over the organization’s future.
Klibanski continued the effort to rethink Partners’ corporate strategy when she became CEO.
David E. Williams, president of the consulting firm Health Business Group, said Partners’ hospitals might be able to rally around a new common name.
“It won’t change anything by itself, changing the names,” he said. “But if it’s part of trying to do an integration, it might have meaning.”
But he also questioned whether the initiative will be worth the costs.
“If it gets to the point where a nonprofit is contemplating $100 million to change its name, it tells you something is wrong. That’s a fairly wasteful exercise,” he said.
Partners includes a dozen hospitals and an insurance company, AllWays Health Partners (formerly Neighborhood Health Plan). The company has a large corporate office in Somerville’s Assembly Row.
It is expected to report about $14 billion in revenue for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 — with the biggest portions coming from Mass. General and the Brigham.