We have some great news to share with you today.

Our proposed merger has achieved another milestone in the approval process, which is the deeming complete of our Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) application in Tennessee. This puts us in a 120-day formal review phase with the Tennessee Department of Health, during which officials will evaluate the merits of our proposal and continue to gather additional input from stakeholders.

As we shared in our last update, the Southwest Virginia Health Authority deemed our Cooperative Agreement application complete on Aug. 26, starting a 150-day review in the commonwealth. We are pleased to reach these milestones and look forward to the next steps toward bringing our organizations together as one.

One very exciting step in that process is the selection of the new name we will use as a merged organization if state officials grant permission to move forward. This week, our CEOs sent out a message to team members inside Wellmont and Mountain States announcing our new name, and we want to share that message with you too. Thank you so much for your continued support.

Dear colleagues:

As you know, we have been engaged in the activities necessary to bring Wellmont and Mountain States together as a new health delivery system. I couldn’t be more proud of the work so many people are doing in order to ensure success with this transition. And I’m talking about you.

Each day, you come to work. The first thing you do is you listen. You listen to your patients explain how they feel. You listen to your colleagues when they give you reports. You listen to the sounds of monitors, and you listen when a patient calls. Each day, with each human transaction you engage in, you participate in the story of that person’s life.

What a special thing. Which brings me to our region.

Like no other, our region’s history is deeply lived through our stories and our music. We never run from challenges; we embrace them, together. Our passion is to understand the unique story of each person’s health and well-being and to contribute our part. Together, Wellmont and Mountain States, as a new health system, will prove good health is achievable by truly hearing each person’s story, and by listening.

And so, today, I’m privileged to be able to share with you an important decision made last night by our Joint Board Task Force – the group of women and men who will govern our new health system. Defining our culture begins with the name and tag line we attach to ourselves. The name selected reflects the importance of each individual’s life story in the provider-patient relationship and the distinct character and heritage of our region.

Once our merger is approved, Mountain States and Wellmont will become Ballad Health. And our tag line will be, “It’s your story. We’re listening”.

This name and associated tag line reflect the culture of our region, and importantly, the culture we wish to have as a new health system. A culture steeped in focusing on the individual stories of our patients and their families. Think about what a privilege this is... each patient trusts us with their most important stories, and we get to be in the front row. There is nothing more important than trust in this relationship.

The new name reflects the input received from over 400 local health care consumers, physicians and team members from both health systems. We found the most important attribute local patients look for in their health care provider is, ‘listening to patients and including them in healthcare decisions’ followed closely by, ‘provides the best medical results’ and, ‘takes the time to explain things clearly.’

Good health is about more than health care; it’s about the story of our lives. Recognizing and listening to the unique story of each and every patient will be the hallmark of our new organization. We will give our patients’ stories our undivided attention because we cherish the fact that they are sharing them with us.

With a decision on our new name, the logo and other elements that will form our new brand can be developed. These will be released once our merger is finalized. In addition, work continues on developing our mission and vision statements, as well developing a collaborative process for Ballad Health team members to define the new organization’s values, which will become our guiding principles.

Our new name is deliberately different, and it is bold. Why? Because we want to be a different kind of health system, building on the promises we made when we embarked on this merger journey.

The proposed merger is currently under review by state officials in both Tennessee and Virginia. We are so grateful for all of the feedback and support we’ve received during the dozens of public meetings that have taken place to date. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the fact that we can now look forward to becoming better together under our new name, Ballad Health: It’s your story. We’re listening.

I’d love for you to see a short video we’ve created to help tell the story of our new name and who we are becoming. It’s posted here.