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October 15, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa – Wellmark® Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® today recognized the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) in Iowa City with a Blue Distinction Center® designation for delivering quality transplant care as part of the Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care® program. Blue Distinction Centers are hospitals shown to deliver quality specialty care based on objective, transparent measures for patient safety and health outcomes that were developed with input from the medical community. UIHC is the only Iowa health system to receive this designation.

In 2006, the Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care program was developed to help patients find quality providers for their specialty care needs while encouraging health care professionals to improve the care they deliver. To receive a Blue Distinction Centers for Transplants® designation, a hospital must demonstrate success in meeting patient safety criteria as well as transplant-specific quality measures (including survival metrics).

With nearly 29,000 patients in the U.S. who undergo transplants annually, it is crucial for Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to recognize providers that have demonstrated proven results in delivering better quality and improved outcomes for patients.

“Wellmark is proud to recognize the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics as a Blue Distinction Center for Transplants,” said Dr. Tim Gutshall, Wellmark vice president and chief medical officer. “Research shows that high quality care, especially for these types of patients, equals higher rates of survival and lower rates of infections. Most important, this helps patients have a better recovery and quality of life.”

The University of Iowa was recognized for quality specific to the following transplant areas:

  • Adult Allogeneic Bone Marrow/Stem Cell
  • Adult Autologous Bone Marrow/Stem Cell
  • Adult Combination Liver-Kidney
  • Adult Heart
  • Adult Liver (deceased donor)
  • Adult Lung (single & bilateral)
  • Adult Pancreas
  • Adult Simultaneous Pancreas-Kidney

Although rare, the number of transplants – including heart, lung, liver, pancreas and bone marrow/stem cell – in the U.S. have increased in recent years. There were 28,954 transplant procedures performed in 2013 compared to 28,052 in 2012. Today, more than 123,000 people are awaiting organ donations for transplants, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Additionally, the department estimates that more than 20,000 people each year may benefit from a bone marrow/stem cell transplant as their best treatment option. These transplant procedures cost the nation more than $20 billion annually at an average of approximately $500,000 each, according to the Milliman Research Report, “2011 U.S. Organ and Tissue Transplant Cost Estimates and Discussion.”

The Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care program also identifies hospitals delivering quality care in bariatric surgery, cardiac care, complex and rare cancers, knee and hip replacements, spine surgery and transplants. These specialty areas comprise approximately 30 percent of inpatient hospital expenditures. For more information about the program and for a complete listing of the designated facilities, please visit www.bcbs.com/bluedistinctionExternal Site.