GW Hospital

The George Washington University Hospital’s Reliance on Status

The George Washington University Hospital’s website has everything one would expect from an accredited health institution’s page. It has a clean layout, thoughtful design, and plenty of accessible information. However, there is so much more to this website than what simply meets the eye. The George Washington University (GWU or simply GW) Hospital uses this website to represent itself and its employees to the outside world. Since print ads and brochures are a thing of the past, a company’s website is their primary way of showcasing itself to anyone of interest. GW had to think about every link, color, picture, and word which they published- all with the hopes of painting their brand in the best light possible. They had to extensively consider their staff, location, and most importantly their clientele. Since any company’s main goal is to enlarge and/or maintain their customer base (since without customers a company would cease to exist), one could conclude that the customers of GW Hospital are the primary viewers of their website. Therefore, this thought could be extended to conclude that the social, political, and educational views of the clientele of GW Hospital are the primary drivers behind the website’s content. The George Washington University Hospital attempts to push the social and historical boundaries concerning their company, yet also seem to rely on these preconceived notions for the success and accreditation of their business.

The first thing one may notice when arriving at The George Washington University Hospital’s website is the logo in the upper left corner of the screen. This logo (pictured) actually says a great deal about the hospital without tremendous effort. The most obvious visual aspect of this logo is how the word “Hospital” is bolded, as opposed to the rest of the title which is in normal uppercase lettering. As anyone who is familiar with GW in general would know, GW’s hospital logo is incredibly similar to the GW University’s logo, including the sepia picture of George Washington and the two lines above and below the text (also pictured). This is the first “clue”, aside from the name of the hospital itself, that there is a strong correlation between the hospital and the university. This may seem like a trivial fact, but it actually holds significant importance. GW was chartered in 1821 by an act of congress (Washington), while the hospital itself did not come into existence until 1948 (Admin). The current ownership of GW Hospital is between two companies, GW and A King of Prussia. A King of Prussia is actually a subsidiary of Universal Health Services Inc. (UHS), which is a Pennsylvanian healthcare management company.  A King Of Prussia holds an 80% stake in the hospital, where GW only holds 20% (About).  It is interesting that even though UHS holds a much greater stake in the hospital’s management, GW is the company which gets the majority recognition. The name, logo, and location of GW Hospital are all directly correlated to GW itself, and there is actually no reference to UHS at all. This is of even more interest when one considers that UHS is actually one of America’s largest healthcare management companies (About). Therefore, this suggests that the members of the board for GW Hospital have decided that recognition with GW means “more” in some sense than recognition with a prominent national healthcare company.

The next thing a viewer may be drawn to is the revolving banner of pictures across the center of the screen. Here there are four different pictures which cycle on a continuous loop, each with a different title and caption accompanying them. The first of these pictures is “Top Docs” with the caption “We’re proud to have more than 200 physicians recognized as 2016 Top Docs by Washingtonian…”, with a “Learn More” button is located underneath. This is followed by “Living Seizure-Free”, then “Surgical Excellence”, and lastly “Neurology and Neurosurgery”. These banners are simplistic in design, yet informative with what most patients at a hospital are probably most concerned about- namely receiving expert care and living symptom-free after their visit. It is also interesting to note the subjects in the pictures. The viewer begins by seeing an asian female doctor address a black male patient in a hospital bed, followed by two black woman with a child (possibly hinting at the child having a non-traditional family structure), then two separate pictures of white male doctors who appear to be in surgical attire. These pictures were most likely very selectively chosen, since they are on the front page of the hospital’s website, and therefore clearly represent the hospital in a major way. The first two pictures definitely seem to elude to diversification and inclusion of both the hospital staff and those who they help, but the last two pictures seem to almost take a step back in that sense. Although a female doctor is shown earlier, when it comes to pictures of the actual surgeons only white men are selected. Now to be fair, these pictures may actually be of well-respected surgeons who work at GW Hospital. Even if that is true, the average visitor to the website most likely does not know who those surgeons are, especially because no doctor’s names are given in any of the banner slides.

Under the revolving banner are the words “Welcome to the George Washington University Hospital”, followed by what appears to be a mission statement in simple black text. This mission statement refers to the “quality and convenience” of care which “thousands” of patients receive at GW Hospital each year. Below the mission statement are two separate columns, one for careers at GW Hospital, and the other for patients and visitors. Underneath these two columns is another row split into three columns with the categories “Cardiac Surgery”, “The GW Comprehensive Breast Center”, and “Robotic Surgery at GW Hospital”. Out of all five of these columns there are three separate pictures of staff at GW Hospital, all three of which are white. Two of these white staff members are female (one is a nurse and the other is the CEO of GW Hospital), while the male is again a surgeon. The only information under these three columns is a link entitled “Awards and Accreditations” in simple black text, followed by all of the legal and site-map informational links.

In order to best understand GW Hospital’s intent from their homepage, it is important to also understand a little more about GW’s background. On GW Hospital’s website there is a link to a page which provides a brief history about the hospital. On this page, it states that the hospital “serves a diverse group of patients, from area residents to visiting dignitaries and heads of state” (About). A different website boasts that GW Hospital “is the premier healthcare facility for Washington DC, serving our President and Congress when in session” (Admin). Clearly, the clientele of this hospital are very esteemed members of society. Additionally, it is interesting to note the socioeconomic ties associated with GW Hospital. According to wNYC DataNews, GW Hospital is located in a neighborhood of DC where the median household income is only $20,673 (News), yet the actual students who go to GW have an average household income of about $182,200 (Economic Diversity). Since the participation of the George Washington University is an essential aspect of the hospital, the economic and political background of the students, and families, funding the school should be heavily considered. In reference to an earlier paragraph, it is assumed that the board of GW Hospital clearly decided that having GW represent the business was in the best interest of the company. This most likely has a strong correlation the socioeconomic and political atmosphere related to GW University itself, which is one of the nation’s top 100 colleges according to US News (How). A similar situation would be how movie posters always show the names of the well-known actors starring in them, or how singers have guest stars sing in some of their songs on their album- status, and any correlation to that status, helps sell. GW Hospital is no exception to this rule, as they are using the prestige of GW University to establish themselves as a prominent healthcare facility worthy of dignitaries’ business.

When it comes to GW Hospital’s website homepage, they seem to put forth effort to showcasing diversity and inclusion, yet also stick to traditional ideas surrounding gender roles. They show numerous pictures of minorities in both roles of leadership and those being helped, but when it comes to the more prestigious positions (surgeons of the hospital) GW chose pictures of white men. This choice should not be looked at as a mere coincidence, but should be examined as a thought-out and educated decision by the hospital. Yes, they are a company which is attempting to show that they have a diverse staff and are willing to serve a diverse client-base, yet they also rely on preconceived notions towards positions of power. Perhaps this is simply to cater to subconscious ideas which people already have, but the execution is questionable. GW Hospital also relies heavily on the pre-established reputation of George Washington University. This reliance is sort of an “old trick” in the sense that it blatantly uses the hard work and reputation of a different company in order to make itself look better. If the hospital was more accurately named “UHS Hospital”, there would definitely be a greater unknown, and possible hesitation, around choosing to be cared for in their facility. Overall, GW Hospital does seem to making steps towards a broader and more inclusive future, but their current state is heavily reliant on society’s preconceived ideas around power and importance.



Works Cited

“About George Washington University Hospital.” The George Washington University Hospital, 16 Jan. 2017,

Admin. “The George Washington University Hospital WASHINGTON, DC.” HCD Magazine, 1 Sept. 2005, university- hospital-washington-dc/.

“Economic Diversity and Student Outcomes at George Washington.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Jan. 2017,

George Washington University Hospital Banner. The George Washington University Hospital,

George Washington University Logo. George Washington University,

“How Does GWU Rank Among America’s Best Colleges?” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report,

“Living Seizure-Free”. The George Washington University Hospital,

“Neurology and Neurosurgery”. The George Washington University Hospital,

News, WNYC Data. “Median Income Across the US.” Median Income Across the US, WYNC DataNews,

“Surgical Excellence”. The George Washington University Hospital,

“Top Docs”. The George Washington University Hospital,

“Washington, D.C.” The George Washington University,

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