I urge you to read David Goldhill's provocative article in the September issue of The Atlantic, "How American Health Care Killed My Father." The author is a business executive (and, not for nothing, a Democrat "concerned about America’s lack of a health safety net") who did extensive research and concluded that our current health-care system is not worth preserving in any form:
We will need to reduce, rather than expand, the role of insurance; focus the government’s role exclusively on things that only government can do (protect the poor, cover us against true catastrophe, enforce safety standards, and ensure provider competition); overcome our addiction to Ponzi-scheme financing, hidden subsidies, manipulated prices, and undisclosed results; and rely more on ourselves, the consumers, as the ultimate guarantors of good service, reasonable prices, and sensible trade-offs between health-care spending and spending on all the other good things money can buy.
But because this is a naming and branding blog, not a policy blog, I want to focus on a brand name mentioned briefly in the article: Qliance. Goldhill offers it as an example of a "nascent ... consumer-centered system"1:
Qliance Medical Group, for instance, now operates clinics serving some 3,000 patients in the Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, areas, charging $49 to $79 a month for unlimited primary care, defined expansively.
Qliance is an interesting coined name with an interesting pronunciation problem. Because the /ql/ consonant blend is "unnatural" in English, my first inclination was to interpret the Q as a K and to read the word as though it were spelled Clients. That almost made sense, although I doubted any health-care organization would be quite so transparent about its raison d'être.
Then, because I'm reasonably hip to invented words and their quirky spellings (I'm responsible for a few of them myself, after all), I backtracked. Perhaps, I thought, the name is pronounced as though the Q were a separate syllable: Cue-liance.2
I found no pronunciation cues on the Qliance website. So I was left with plenty of Q's. I set out to find some A's.
It turns out that among coined brand names starting with Ql-, pronunciation splits down the middle. There's a band called Qlimax, fairly obviously pronounced Climax. There's a downloadable world clock, Qlock, whose Q is pronounced like C. Ditto the music service Qloud, which uses a cloud logo to reinforce the pronunciation. And Qlarity , "an innovative object-based graphic terminal language," goes even further by explaining on its home page that it's pronounced "Clarity."
On the other hand we have QLogic, "the leading brand name in Storage Area Networks." The capital L tells us that "logic" is a discrete word and "Q" is a prefix. Likewise, the hyphen and capital L in Q-Lab, "the most trusted name in weathering," make it clear that Q is pronounced as a separate syllable: you're not intended to say "Klab." Q-layer, a Sun Micro product, has a hyphen for clarity. Mortgage company Qlending doesn't, but in its logo the Q is gray and "lending" is black so that we know they're separate words. (What the Q stands for here I have no idea.)
Then there's QLINK Motor, whose spelling provides no clues. Is it Clink or Q-Link?
If Qliance is meant to be pronounced "Q-Liance" (maybe it's an alliance for Quality, or Quantum; probably not an alliance of Quacks), then fixing the orthography would be a big step toward making it more, well, "consumer-centered" and easy to say. But not much easier to say: "Q-Liance" is too far from alliance and too forced, and the meaning of -liance isn't transparent: it may be an abbreviation of alliance, or it may stand for something else—compliance or appliance, say.
If the name is pronounced "Clients," I'm really puzzled. Do you want patient-members to say, "I got my swine-flu shot at Clients"?
There's at least one other possible pronunciation: KLEE-ance (or klee-AHNCE).
In summary: health-care options GOOD; name ambiguity BAD. I prescribe a brand-name checkup, stat.
1 For starters, it takes no insurance plans at all, including Medicare and Medicaid.
2 However it's pronounced, Qliance is doing something right: it currently has five five-star reviews on Yelp.