Blue Distinction® Centers Promote Health Equity to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities and Improve Patient Outcomes

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association implemented new requirements for facilities pursuing the Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care designation, recognizing facilities that provide higher-quality maternal care.

CHICAGO – Starting this year, designated Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care across the country met enhanced health equity criteria in an effort to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in maternal care in alignment with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s (BCBSA) Maternal Health Equity Actions. Designations were effective January 1.

“The commitment that Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies made to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities is rooted in action. The enhanced requirements for our Blue Distinction Centers can help millions of mothers across the country gain improved access to higher-quality, equitable care,” said Kim Keck, BCBSA’s president and CEO. “We are proud to recognize facilities that are helping to create a more equitable system of health for all.”

The Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care program plays a key role in BCBSA’s National Health Equity Strategy, aimed at confronting the nation’s maternal health crisis from racial and ethnic health disparities by helping close clinical care gaps and dismantle the cultural, operational and structural barriers that persist throughout the maternal care spectrum.

Data from BCBSA shows that designated facilities met the health equity selection criteria, and outperformed national averages in the following areas:

  • 17% fewer cesarean births
  • 60% fewer elective deliveries
  • 26% fewer episiotomies

Because severe maternal morbidity rates are on the rise, and Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women, the Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care program enhanced its quality and measurement standards to recognize higher-quality facilities that have taken action to improve maternal health outcomes while reducing racial and ethnic disparities.

Facilities that meet the program’s selection criteria are eligible for designation at one of two levels:

  • Blue Distinction Centers (BDC): recognizes health care facilities that deliver quality care, safely and effectively.
  • Blue Distinction Centers+ (BDC+): recognizes health care facilities that deliver quality care, safely and effectively, in addition to demonstrating more affordable care. BDC+ designated facilities also exhibit an average savings of 21% for maternity care, according to a recent program survey.

To be designated under this program, each applicant facility was evaluated on a combination of objective data on patient outcomes as well as the following practices:

  • Using evidence-based best practices to respond effectively to obstetric emergencies
  • Offering unconscious bias training
  • Participating in the regional Perinatal Quality Collaborative
  • Supporting doula participation in the maternity care team
  • Collecting race, ethnicity and language data
  • Having a program dedicated to quality improvements in maternal care
  • Running drills and simulations to prepare providers for a range of obstetric emergencies
  • Demonstrating health outcomes that exceed the selection criteria from the program’s previous evaluation cycle

Since 2006, the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality specialty care (and, for BDC+ designated facilities, at lower costs) in the areas of bariatric surgery, cancer care, cardiac care, cellular immunotherapy, fertility care, gene therapy, knee and hip replacement, maternity care, spine surgery, substance use treatment and recovery, and transplants.

For more information about the program and for a complete listing of the designated providers, visit our website.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 35 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.