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Blue Distinction Specialty Care

The Blue Distinction Specialty Care Program is a national designation program that recognizes healthcare facilities that demonstrate expertise in delivering quality specialty care—safely, effectively, and cost efficiently—through two levels of designation across seven areas of specialty care.


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


There are many benefits of becoming a Blue Distinction Center or Blue Distinction Center+, including:

Differentiation in your community and beyond

Enhanced awareness and preference among patients

Recognition among employers

Benchmarks to evaluate your performance against your peers


Contact your local Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield company if you would like your healthcare facility to be considered for any of these designations.

Bariatric Surgery

Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ for Bariatric Surgery are healthcare facilities with demonstrated expertise and a commitment to quality care, resulting in better overall outcomes for patients. To be considered for designation, the facility must provide a full range of bariatric surgery care, including inpatient care, post-operative care, outpatient follow-up and patient education.

Blue Distinction Centers for Bariatric Surgery program designation includes the following procedure types:

  • Gastric Stapling
  • Gastric Banding

Current Designation Materials (Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+)

Cardiac Care

Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ for Cardiac Care are healthcare facilities with demonstrated expertise and a commitment to quality care, resulting in better overall outcomes for patients seeking inpatient cardiac care services, including coronary artery bypass graft surgery, heart valve surgery, and angioplasty (percutaneous coronary intervention).

Current Designation Materials (Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+)

Complex and Rare Cancers

Blue Distinction Centers for Complex and Rare Cancers have received their designation based on surgical case volume for adults with certain complex and rare cancers, as well as structure and process criteria. There is evidence supporting that for many complex and rare cancers, higher surgical volume is related to improved patient outcomes. Our first phase of the program assesses facilities on evaluation, treatment planning, complex inpatient care and major surgical treatments; all delivered by multidisciplinary teams with distinguished expertise and subspecialty training for complex and rare cancers.

While this designation is meant as a comprehensive indicator of quality, facilities were required to submit data on each of the individual cancer types as part of the evaluation process. The cancers were split into two groups based on the strength of available evidence and, to a lesser extent, rarity of the cancer type. The cancer types with stronger evidence were weighed more heavily during the evaluation process.

To become a Blue Distinction Center for Complex and Rare Cancers, facilities had to satisfy criteria for at least five of the eight main cancers. The additional cancer types were also evaluated and are intended to be another resource for patients and providers. Each cancer type, regardless of group, had three criteria areas that had to be met for an applicant to satisfy qualifications:

  1. Multidisciplinary treatment team and corresponding sub-specialty training (varied by type)
  2. Regular meetings of sub-specialized, multidisciplinary tumor board/cancer conferences
  3. Minimum annual average surgical case volume

Main cancers used for this designation evaluation:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Brain cancer – primary
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gastric cancer
  • Liver cancer – primary
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Acute leukemia (inpatient, non-surgical)

Additional cancers:

  • Bone cancer – primary
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Ocular melanoma
  • Soft tissue sarcoma
  • Thyroid cancer – medullary or anaplastic

The evidence-based selection criteria for this program were developed in strategic collaboration with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN)*, and a panel of expert clinicians.

Blue Cross Blue Shield recognizes that the majority of patients' multidisciplinary treatment may be best accomplished by integrating the expertise available in a Blue Distinction Center with locally available treatment resources, especially for outpatient chemotherapy and radiotherapy, based on individual circumstances and patient preference.

*This organization has provided information and input, but does not formally endorse the Blue Distinction Centers program.  

Knee and Hip Replacement

Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ for Knee and Hip Replacement are acute inpatient healthcare facilities with demonstrated expertise and a commitment to quality care, resulting in better overall outcomes for patients of comprehensive inpatient knee and hip replacement services, including total knee replacement and total hip replacement.

Current Designation Materials (Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ designations)

Maternity Care

Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ for Maternity Care are healthcare facilities with demonstrated expertise and a commitment to quality care during the delivery episode of care, which includes both vaginal and cesarean section delivery.

Current Designation Materials (Blue Distinction Center and Blue Distinction Center+ designations)

Spine Surgery

Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ for Spine Surgery are healthcare facilities with demonstrated expertise and a commitment to quality care, resulting in better overall outcomes for patients seeking inpatient spine surgery services, including lumbar fusion, lumbar laminectomy / discectomy, cervical fusion and cervical laminectomy procedures. Blue Distinction Centers+ for Spine Surgery also deliver care more efficiently than their peers.

Current Designation Materials (Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+)

Transplants

Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ for Transplants consist of a national network of transplant centers that offer comprehensive services through coordinated, streamlined referral management. All of the Blue Distinction Centers for Transplants meet specific program selection criteria that consider not only provider qualifications and program process, but patient outcomes as well. Hospitals receiving the Blue Distinction Center+ for Transplants designation have met the Blue Distinction Centers’ standards while also demonstrating better cost-efficiency relative to their peers.

The Blue Distinction Centers for Transplants program examines the following transplant types:

  • Heart
  • Lung
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Bone marrow/stem cell

Current Designation Materials (Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+)

Click here for additional resources about transplant services.

Blue Distinction Centers (BDC) met overall quality measures for patient safety and outcomes, developed with input from the medical community. A Local Blue Plan may require additional criteria for facilities located in its own service area; for details, contact your Local Blue Plan. Blue Distinction Centers+ (BDC+) also met cost measures that address consumers’ need for affordable healthcare. Each facility’s cost of care is evaluated using data from its Local Blue Plan. Facilities in CA, ID, NY, PA, and WA may lie in two Local Blue Plans’ areas, resulting in two evaluations for cost of care; and their own Local Blue Plans decide whether one or both cost of care evaluation(s) must meet BDC+ national criteria. National criteria for BDC and BDC+ are displayed on www.bcbs.com. Individual outcomes may vary. For details on a provider’s in-network status or your own policy’s coverage, contact your Local Blue Plan and ask your provider before making an appointment. Neither Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association nor any Blue Plans are responsible for non-covered charges or other losses or damages resulting from Blue Distinction or other provider finder information or care received from Blue Distinction or other providers.