(Editor's note: This is the second in a series of weekly articles detailing the history and on-going changes at Sioux Valley Memorial Hospital in Cherokee as it transitions into the future of regional health care with an enhanced identity and a compelling new image. The first article in the series detailed the changes SVMH has gone through over the last 89 years.)
When Sioux Valley Memorial Hospital first opened its doors in 1916, hospitals existed for two reasons - sick care and delivering babies - and those very necessary social obligations were admirably upheld for dozens of years.
However, today's health care has evolved into a much more complex, comprehensive industry, whose technical advances and skillful medical diagnosis and related procedures require hospitals to become much more than that term once implied.
For the past several months, Sioux Valley Memorial Hospital officials have been taking a very tedious and intense look at possibly rebranding its current image, including possible changes to the hospital's name, logo and positioning statement.
Today, SVMH provides a complete circle of health care with the hospital, four area medical clinics, the Wellness Center, The Beck, and many highly-trained specialists aboard. With such growth and development, SVMH has forged into the future staying abreast of the latest and greatest technology and expert staff.
Along with that, comes the question as to whether or not the current "brand identity" matched what SVMH now offers. In short, does the name and logo say what SVMH really is?
Led by CEO John Comstock, marketing director Karmen Vanfossan, and its Board of Directors, the Cherokee hospital began examining the current image of the hospital. To be as thorough as possible, 17 special focus groups involving 149 people were formed seeking input from throughout the community.
Among those groups were the medical staff, 12 employee focus groups, past board members, the Auxiliary, and community business people.
In addition, an open invitation to form a community focus group was advertised in the newspaper and on radio, with only a single response from the public.
After the other 17 focus groups had met, three overwhelming viewpoints were generated:
*By a vast majority, the words "memorial" and "hospital" were deemed antiquated and outdated, and did not reflect all that SVMH does or offers. "It makes us sound small and limited in services," said one focus group member.
*Significant confusion exists in many circles with Sioux Valley Memorial Hospital in Cherokee, and Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls. Vital shortcomings arise affecting recruiting new staff, medical record mix-ups, billing questions, lab and radiology results sent to wrong locations, etc.
*No one actually knows which Sioux Valley Hospital or where it is located. In fact, paramedics refer to it as "Cherokee hospital" on transfers in an effort to avoid such confusion - especially in a crisis situation.
Through it all, the focus groups were asked their opinions on the name Sioux Valley Memorial Hospital, the current logo of the faded hearts to the complete heart, and the current positioning statement "Building a Healthy Future Together."
Other changes by other hospitals in the area also were displayed, as were several new logos and proposed name changes for the Cherokee hospital.
The focus groups also were made aware of the fact that there is a natural attachment by some for the current name, which is understandable to a degree for many natives born and raised here.
Also, many members in the focus groups expressed surprise that a name and logo change had not been made by now.
Jeremy Normington, DPT, Physical Therapist, and manager of the Physical Medicine Department, was among the employees participating in the employee focus groups.
"There were about 25 employees in my group," advised Normington. "They showed us the history of the hospital and asked our thoughts on rebranding. Some were for it, some unsure, and some approved of some of the proposed changes and not others.
"The views differed, but a majority of the people were open to changes that would accurately affect what Sioux Valley Memorial Hospital has become. We're much, much more than a hospital today."
Trudy Hinkeldey, RN in the Med/Surg Department, lauded the SVMH administration for considering all employees' thoughts on the matter and said the focus groups took it all very seriously.
"They did a good job including everyone and were sincere in getting ideas and any informative views. They really wanted to know what the employees were thinking," said Hinkeldey.
"It's good that this brings out to the public that 'Here we are,' and we're (SVMH) keeping up by considering changing our name and logo to create a new image that better defines who we are and what we do; and that it's a real positive change for us."
For Dick Robinson, Plant Engineer, his usual response to such things is 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
However, armed with the new information, input from the focus groups, and perceptive enough to see that SVMH has evolved into much more than a "hospital," it's time for a change.
"It's a big deal, that's for sure," said Robinson. "But to keep up with the times and what we've become with our expansion, remodeling, new facilities and equipment, and specialty clinics, it's time to change the name and the image to fit what we are."
When you add up the many changes in buildings, equipment, technology, medical services, specialty services, educational services, recreational services, and the exciting future in the health care industry, it would appear SVMH is on the right path by updating its name and logo to better accommodate its new image and mission.
(Next: Other hospitals and trends in the industry.)