Mary Free Bed Changes Name

November 19, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — A new name and an accompanying $3.2 million statewide ad campaign are designed to more clearly identify Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital’s role as a center that focuses on physical rehabilitation.

Replacing the word “center” with “hospital” in the organization’s name should help to dispel the perception, found even among physicians, that Mary Free Bed provides rehabilitation for substance abuse. It does not.

“There’s a lot of confusion in the area about who we are,” Mary Free Bed Director of Marketing Meg Derrer said. “People don’t understand what type of hospital we are.”

To reverse those misperceptions, the Grand Rapids rehab hospital changed its name effective Nov. 15 and embarked on a comprehensive three-year branding campaign that incorporates a new slogan — “Restoring Hope and Freedom” — and uses television, newspaper and billboards ads in 10 markets throughout the state from which it draws patients. The branding campaign is the first the rehab hospital has ever done.

Specializing in physical therapy, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital serves more than 1,000 patients annually at its 80-bed inpatient facility and more than 40,000 patients a year on an outpatient basis. The rehab hospital’s core services are for patients with brain or spinal cord injuries who have been injured in an accident, stroke victims, amputees and people who’ve undergone surgeries such as knee or hip replacement.

“Our focus is to make sure that the quality, experience and wide array of services will be clearly and concisely portrayed in a truthful and straightforward manner,” Mary Free Bed CEO Bill Blessing said. “We are letting the public know that we are not like other Michigan hospitals.”

Research conducted using focus groups and interviews with referring physicians found misunderstandings about what Mary Free Bed does. People unfamiliar with the organization took the words “rehabilitation center” in the former name to mean drug and alcohol rehab.

People also were mistaken that Mary Free Bed, which operates independently and employs some 650 people, was affiliated with Saint Mary’s Health Care, because the two hospitals are located adjacent to one another in Grand Rapids, Derrer said.

The rehab hospital hopes the branding campaign eliminates those misperceptions, generates greater name recognition and ultimately leads to more patient referrals.

“We’d like to serve more patients in our region,” she said. “We feel that if people know that we are here and the kind of services and outcomes we get, and if they ever would need our care that they would come here.”

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