A nonprofit company founded in January 2018 by three billionaire business titans – Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), and Jamie Dimon (JPMorgan Chase) – and headed by a non-billionaire-but-not-doing-badly-at-all celebrity doctor, Atul Gawande, yesterday announced its name: Haven.
Connecting the dots?
Haven is being called a healthcare venture, but it’s not a care provider. It’s neither a hospital nor a clinic. Nor is it an insurance company. For now, it will be headquartered in Boston (a New York office is in the works) and serve only the employees of the three founders’ companies.
So what is it?
Here’s what Gawande, a practicing surgeon who is also the author of Being Mortal and a regular New Yorker contributor, says on the Haven website:
- We will be an advocate for the patient and an ally to anyone – clinicians, industry leaders, innovators, policymakers, and others – who makes patient care and costs better.
- We will create new solutions and work to change systems, technologies, contracts, policy, and whatever else is in the way of better health care.
- We will be relentless. We will insure our work has high impact and is sustainable. And we are committed to doing this work for the long-term.
Ally, solutions, impact, systems: these are important-sounding but vague buzzwords that don’t disclose much. (Also: “makes costs better”—for whom?) I had a similar reaction to the Haven name: easy to say, easy to spell, but what does it mean?
The answers are inconsistent. Here’s how Stat News, an online medical publication, covered the name announcement:
The company said it chose the name Haven to reflect its desire to be a haven for all ideas that may improve health care services and make them more affordable.
Oh, really? Here’s Haven’s FAQ:
Not exactly in sync. The official story has nothing to do with the definition of “haven,” a word that goes back to Old English hæuen and which still retains its original meaning: “a place of shelter or refuge.” (It appears in various forms in place names, including København – the Danish spelling of Copenhagen, literally “merchants’ harbor” – and New Haven, Connecticut.) The OED also gives a “chiefly U.S.” definition: “A place providing protection and favourable conditions or opportunities for a particular type of person, or where a particular activity may flourish. Originally and frequently with reference to criminals or illegal activities.” The earliest citation is from 1891: “a sure haven for crooks.”
It’s the association with “shelter,” not hanky-panky, that accounts for “Haven” showing up in many names of health-care businesses. And I do mean many: “Haven” is so far from original in this field that my first response was surprise that the newest Haven could get trademark protection. Then I remembered the net worth of its owners, and their legal clout, and … well, never mind how crowded this namespace is. Right?
Haven Healthcare, “the Ozark’s [sic] premiere health care company.” Its URL is havenhome.us. The new Haven uses havenhealthcare.com, which is unusual for a nonprofit: the standard domain extension is .org.
Haven Health Group, Arizona. Their web content is so fuzzy that I haven’t figured out what they do, other than “strive to know, practice, and live our Mission Statement.” Some sort of rehab, maybe?
HavenHealth, Signal Hill (Los Angeles County), California, a home health-care provider.
Haven Behavioral Healthcare, a network of psychiatric hospitals headquartered in Nashville.
That’s just the beginning; it doesn’t cover all the “Safe Haven,” “West Haven,” “Brook Haven,” “Cedar Haven,” “Pacific Haven,” and “New Haven” names in the health-care industry. (In case you’re curious, Haven.com is owned by a holiday-booking agency in the UK.)
The new Haven has chosen a tagline that matches the name for lack of distinctiveness: “It’s time for better.”
It’s time for a better tagline.
Yes, it’s our old friend anthimeria, or functional shift: the use of one part of speech – in this case, the adjective better – as a different part of speech (in this case, a noun). I’ve been documenting this trend for years in slogans and ad lines: “We Believe in Better,” “Find Your Thrive,” “Welcome to Possible,” “Let’s Movie.” (For more examples, start here.)
I give Haven a disappointing C grade on verbal branding. Missed opportunities all around. Not that I’m dismissing this fledgling company – hardly! Deep pockets and off-the-charts intelligence are a formidable combination, and Haven has both to spare.