Introducing: Northwell Health.

The North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System announced Monday that beginning in January it will change its name.

Chief executive Michael Dowling said the new name reflects the breadth of the health system, which includes 21 hospitals on Long Island, New York City and Westchester and annual revenue of $8 billion.

"The name we've had represented two facilities. We're much more than that, and we wanted to reflect the totality of all that binds them together," he said.

The current name was cobbled together in 1997 with the merger of Long Island Jewish Medical Center and the North Shore Health System. Dowling said the name always caused confusion, with some people referring to the system as "North Shore" and others referring to it as "LIJ" -- often in the same conversation.

He also said the new name reflects an emphasis on wellness rather than on disease, the thrust of health care in the future.

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What's more, Northwell Health does not identify the health system -- the 14th biggest nationwide that includes a research institute, medical school, insurance company and the largest ambulance transport system on the East Coast -- with one area of the country.

"Our trustees recognized the need for a more consumer-friendly name that did not confine us geographically and reflects our emergence as a regional health care provider with a coverage area that extends beyond Long Island," said Mark Claster, the health system's board chairman, in a news release. The board of trustees unanimously approved the name change.

Each hospital in the system will keep its name to reflect its community roots, Dowling said. For instance, he said, the signage for Huntington Hospital will say "Huntington Hospital/part of Northwell Health." He said it would take several years for all the signs to be changed.

The new name will be the centerpiece of an aggressive marketing and branding campaign beginning in January that will cost "tens of millions" of dollars over the next several years, Dowling said. The health system, the state's largest private employer, has already begun the process of introducing Northwell Health to its 61,000 employees and more than 10,000 affiliated doctors, he said.

The chief executive said the health system has discussed changing the name "on and off" for the past six or seven years. Earlier this year it began working with branding consultants Denver-based Monigle and Interbrand, based in New York. J. Walter Thompson, the marketing firm based in New York, was also brought in.

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Initially they were presented with a list of 600 names, Dowling said, which was whittled down to 50, then to 15 and eventually to two.