Anyone who’s lived in Charlotte very long knows we have two large, competitive hospital systems that own all the hospitals in Mecklenburg County and most of the doctors’ offices.
Based on quality indicators, personal experience and word of mouth, I’m comfortable saying the overall quality of care they deliver is excellent. Many top-notch doctors have moved here in recent years from some of the most prestigious medical centers in the country.
Here’s some stuff you might not know:
▪ Carolinas HealthCare System, the large public hospital group, started out as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, and that’s still the official name. For marketing reasons, the name changed in 1996 to reflect its growing footprint. Today, it owns or manages about 40 hospitals in both Carolinas.
Along the way, individual hospital names changed too. Carolinas Medical Center, aka CMC, used to be Charlotte Memorial Hospital, and some old-timers still call it that. In the 1990s, “CMC” was tacked onto the names of other hospitals in the group. For example, Mercy Hospital became CMC-Mercy and Mercy Hospital South became CMC-Pineville.
Two years ago, with the arrival of new corporate communication leaders, the system began a branding campaign – you’ve no doubt seen the highway billboards – focused on the word “One.” With that, hospital names changed again. Carolinas Medical Center and CMC-Mercy remain, but other hospitals that used the CMC prefix are now substituting Carolinas HealthCare System before the location name. For example, CMC-Pineville is now Carolinas HealthCare System Pineville.
Regardless of the names, you can tell a Carolinas HealthCare facility by the turquoise “tree of life” logo.
▪ Novant Health, which owns four hospitals in Charlotte, is actually based in Winston-Salem. It has changed names over the years as well.
It was created in 1997 with the merger of Presbyterian Healthcare in Charlotte and Carolina Medicorp in Winston-Salem. The name Novant was created by combining two Latin words and one French: Nova (meaning star), Novateur (meaning innovator), and Avant (meaning in advance of or in front of).
Individual hospital names stayed the same for awhile, but in 2013, the system rolled out a new logo in aubergine and gray and added the prefix Novant Health to all facility names. For example, after 110 years as Presbyterian Hospital, the name was changed to Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. Others in Mecklenburg County are Novant Health Charlotte Orthopaedic Hospital, Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center and Novant Health Matthews Medical Center.
▪ That Matthews hospital has one of the best and most consumer-friendly medical libraries in the county. Today, many people do their own medical research on the Internet. But if you’re not adept at the computer or want a little guidance, Darlene Byrd will cheerfully research anything you ask her for.
She has been head librarian at the Matthews hospital library since it opened in 1995. She and her co-workers make appointments (daytime and evenings) or work with drop-in visitors during regular hours.
▪ Charlotte has a conservative medical culture, but it’s also embracing “integrative” medicine and virtual medical care.
Private practitioners offer acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy and other therapies using herbal medicines and energy balancing techniques. The surprise is that mainstream hospitals also offer some of these therapies.
In 2011, CMC-Mercy achieved designation as a Planetree hospital, which means its staff is trained in “patient-centered” care and patients are offered massage therapy, music therapy and aromatherapy. At Levine Cancer Institute, cancer patients can get free massage therapy or acupuncture for a small fee. They can also get free classes in yoga, tai chi or mindfulness and meditation.
Both Carolinas HealthCare and Novant Health offer virtual connections between doctors and patients through video or email on computers, tablets and smart phones. Carolinas HealthCare also has a virtual ICU in a Mint Hill office park, where specialized doctors and nurses connect via computer to intensive care units around the region.
▪ Charlotte is the largest U.S. city without a medical school. But that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter medical students and residents at local hospitals and doctors’ offices.
Since the 1940s, Carolinas Medical Center has trained doctors in a medical residency program. Today, it employs about 300 faculty physicians who teach 295 residents and fellows in more than 30 specialty areas.
It also operates a branch campus of the UNC Chapel Hill medical school, called the UNC School of Medicine Charlotte Campus. Created in 2010, it trained about 60 third- and fourth-year medical students this year. Other UNC medical students rotate through various hospital services, so the total number of students on campus was about 300 in the past year.
Earlier this year, a Pittsburgh health care consultant, hired by a group of concerned Charlotteans, recommended the city should develop a four-year medical school by pursuing a partnership between CMC’s branch campus and UNC Charlotte.
Karen Garloch has written about health issues for the Observer since 1987.