Mountain Health Earns Blue Distinction for Spine Surgery

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia has selected both Cabell Huntington Hospital (CHH) and St. Mary’s Medical Center (SMMC), members of Mountain Health Network, as a Blue Distinction Center+ for Spine Surgery as part of the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program.

Blue Distinction Centers® are nationally designated health care facilities that show a commitment to delivering high-quality patient safety and better health outcomes based on objective measures that were developed with input from the medical community and leading accreditation and quality organizations.

Spinal surgeries are among the most common and expensive elective surgeries in the U.S., according to the government-based Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which creates a significant opportunity to improve quality and value within the health care system. For example, there were more than 463,000 spinal fusion operations in the U.S. in 2014, and hospital costs for a fusion procedure average $28,900, according to AHRQ.

Facilities 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 readmissions compared to other facilities. Designated facilities include hospitals (with and without an onsite Intensive Care Unit) and Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASC). All designated facilities must maintain national accreditation. In addition to meeting these quality thresholds, hospitals designated as Blue Distinction Centers+ are on average 20 percent more cost-efficient in an episode of care compared to other facilities.

“Only those facilities that first meet nationally established, objective quality measures are even considered for designation as a Blue Distinction Center+, so we are proud to be acknowledged,” said Hoyt Burdick, MD, chief clinical officer for Mountain Health Network. “We are committed to providing quality health care to our community and these designations for both Cabell and St. Mary’s are proof of that commitment.”

The Blue Distinction Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality care in the areas of bariatric surgery, cancer care, cardiac care, cellular immunotherapy, fertility care, gene therapy, knee and hip replacements, maternity care, spine surgery, substance use treatment, and recovery and transplants. Research for many of these programs shows that, compared to other providers, those designated as Blue Distinction Centers demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients.

For more information about the program and for a complete listing of designated facilities, visit