Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center Earns Blue Distinction Recognitions

April 15, 2016

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield has designated Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center as a Blue Distinction Center for Cardiac Care, Knee & Hip Surgery, Spine Surgery, and Maternity Care. Blue Distinction Centers are nationally designated healthcare facilities shown to deliver improved patient safety and better health outcomes, based on objective measures that were developed with input from the medical community. Quality is key: only those facilities that first meet nationally established quality measures for Blue Distinction Centers were considered for designation as a Blue Distinction Center+.


Cardiac Care

To receive a Blue Distinction Center+ for Cardiac Care designation, a hospital must demonstrate its expertise in delivering safe and effective cardiac care, focusing on cardiac valve surgery, coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) and percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI) episodes of care. A hospital must also have earned national accreditation at the facility level. In addition to meeting established quality thresholds, these hospitals must also demonstrate better cost-efficiency compared to their peers.  

“We know how important it is for our community to get quality heart care without having to travel,” says Dr. Savas Mavridis, Medical Director of Cardiovascular Services and Chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery. “This recognizes our commitment to the cardiac program. We continually look for ways to deliver the very best care to our patients.”

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming more than 610,000 lives—1 in 4—each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.1 By 2030, 40.5 percent of the U.S. population is projected to have some form of cardiovascular disease, and the cost of cardiac care is expected to reach $818 billion by 2030—an increase of almost 300 percent from 2010, according to the American Heart Association. The Blue Distinction Specialty Care program seeks to reduce this burden by empowering patients with the knowledge and tools to find both quality and value for their cardiac care.

Research shows that facilities designated as Blue Distinction Centers demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients compared with their peers. On average, facilities designated as a Blue Distinction Center+ for Cardiac Care are 20 percent more cost efficient in an episode of care compared to non-Blue Distinction Center+ designated healthcare facilities.  


Knee & Hip Surgery

Knee and hip replacement procedures are among the fastest growing medical treatments in the U.S., according to studies published in the June 2014 Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery1 and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons2.

In 2010, the estimated cost of hip replacements averaged $17,500 and the estimated cost of knee replacements averaged $16,000, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)3. 

Hospitals designated as Blue Distinction Centers+ for Knee and Hip Replacement demonstrate expertise in total knee and total hip replacement surgeries, resulting in fewer patient complications and hospital readmissions. Designated hospitals must also 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 hospitals.

Conemaugh Memorial is proud to be recognized by Highmark BCBS for meeting the robust selection criteria for knee and hip replacements set by the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program. “We are fortunate to have a talented surgical staff and 9 experienced surgeons who help contribute to outcomes like these,” says Dr. Don Lowry, Chairman of Orthopedics at Conemaugh Memorial. “Our Joint Adventures program does a great job of educating patients and preparing them for successful joint replacement surgery.”


Spine Surgery

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), which creates a significant opportunity to improve quality and value within the healthcare 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.

“Conemaugh Memorial is proud to be recognized by Highmark BCBS for meeting the rigorous selection criteria for spine surgery set by the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program,” says Dr. Susan Williams, Chief Medical Officer of the Conemaugh Health System. “Our surgeons and surgical staff work very hard to make this a top notch program, so patients can get great care without having to travel to a larger city.”


Maternity Care

Nearly four million babies are born in the U.S. annually, making childbirth the most common cause of hospitalization. This new Blue Distinction Centers+ for Maternity Care program evaluates hospitals on several quality measures, including the percentage of newborns that fall into the category of early elective delivery, an ongoing concern in the medical community. Compared with babies born 39 weeks or later, early term infants face higher risks of infant death and respiratory ailments such as respiratory distress syndrome, pneumonia, and respiratory failure, among other conditions. These babies also have a higher rate of admission to Neonatal Intensive Care Units.

In addition, hospitals that receive a Blue Distinction Center+ for Maternity Care designation agreed to meet requirements that align with principles that support evidence-based practices of care, as well as having initiated programs to promote successful breastfeeding, as described in the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative by Baby-Friendly USA or the Mother-Friendly Hospital program by the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) through its “Ten Steps of Mother-Friendly Care.” The program also evaluates hospitals on overall patient satisfaction, including a willingness to recommend the hospital to others.  

Blue Distinction Centers+ for Maternity Care, an expansion of the national Blue Distinction Specialty Care program, are hospitals recognized for delivering quality, affordable specialty care safely and effectively, based on objective measures developed with input from the medical community. To receive a Blue Distinction Centers+ for Maternity Care designation, a hospital must also meet requirements for cost efficiency.

“Our physicians and staff work hard to make sure our maternity program offers the very best to patients,” says Dr. Adib Khouzami, Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Conemaugh Memorial. Our team is trained to assist mother and baby in times of need with the added education and expertise of a perinatologist, a physician specializing in pre-term and high-risk pregnancy care, and our Level 3 Regional Intensive Care Nursery which offers the highest level of care for premature and ill newborns.”