PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s biggest hospital group could be getting a new, but very familiar, name.

Target 12 has learned that executives at Lifespan are in advanced talks to rebrand the health system with the name of Brown University.

Details about the potential agreement — and how extensive the deepened relationship between Lifespan and Brown would be — remained limited as of Friday afternoon.

“I can confirm Lifespan is in discussions with Brown University,” Lifespan spokesperson Kathleen Hart told Target 12 in a statement Friday. She noted that the two organizations have longstanding ties, including many physicians who are affiliated with both institutions.

“We’re always looking for ways to strengthen our longstanding partnership,” Hart said. “In regard to your question about the name: nothing is off the table in our ongoing discussions, but there is nothing to report at this point.”

A spokesperson for Brown confirmed the talks with Lifespan, but declined further comment.

Lifespan is the state’s largest employer and the owner of Rhode Island, Miriam, Newport and Bradley hospitals. Brown is also a major employer, with a $6.6 billion endowment and the state’s only medical school.

The possibility of rebranding the Lifespan system as “Brown Health” or something along those lines has been floated in recent months by the leadership team around its new CEO, John Fernandez, who was recruited from Mass. Eye and Ear in Boston.

Asked on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers last month whether he was open to renaming Lifespan, Fernandez said simply, “Sure.”

It’s unclear what effect a revamped Lifespan-Brown relationship would have on Rhode Island’s No. 2 hospital group, Care New England, which also has close ties to the university. A spokesperson for CNE has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Also unclear is whether any potential agreement would need sign-off from Attorney General Peter Neronha, who oversees hospital transactions in Rhode Island and who killed a merger deal between Lifespan and CNE last year.

“We’re aware of the conversations and beyond that we have no further comment,” Neronha spokesperson Brian Hodge told Target 12.

Ted Nesi ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Threads, Twitter and Facebook.