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February 22, 2018

DES MOINES, IA – Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield today announced St. Luke’s Methodist Hospital in Cedar Rapids as a Blue Distinction Center+ facility in the specialty area of spine surgery as part of the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program. Blue Distinction Centers are nationally designated health care facilities shown to deliver improved patient safety and better health outcomes, based on objective measures that were developed by Blue Cross Blue Shield companies with input from the medical community.

Spinal surgeries are among the most common and expensive elective surgeries in the U.S., according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) External Site, which creates a significant opportunity to improve quality and value within the health care system. For example, there were more than 465,000 spinal fusion operations in the U.S. in 2011, and hospital costs for a fusion procedure average $27,5681 according to AHRQ.

Hospitals designated as Blue Distinction Centers+ for Spine Surgery demonstrate expertise in cervical and lumbar fusion, cervical laminectomy and lumbar laminectomy/discectomy procedures, resulting in fewer patient complications and hospital readmissions compared to other hospitals. Designated hospitals must also maintain national accreditation. In addition to meeting these quality thresholds, facilities designated as Blue Distinction Centers+ are on average 20 percent more cost-efficient in an episode of care compared to other hospitals.

Quality is key: Only those facilities that first meet nationally established, objective quality measures will be considered for designation as a Blue Distinction Center+.

Since 2006, the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality providers for their specialty care needs in the areas of bariatric surgery, cardiac care, complex and rare cancers, knee and hip replacements, maternity care, spine surgery, and transplants, while encouraging health care professionals to improve the care they deliver.

For more information about the program and for a complete listing of the designated facilities, please visit www.bcbs.com/bluedistinction External Site.

1Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) External Site