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Medical Centers Receive National Recognition for Surgical Excellence

Sanford USD Medical Center & MeritCare Both Honored for Quality

(Fargo, ND & Sioux Falls, SD) — Sanford USD Medical Center and MeritCare medical center both recently received national recognition for hip and knee replacement excellence. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association awarded both medical centers a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement. Sanford USD Medical Center was also designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery.

Blue Distinction is an innovative quality designation that helps consumers and their physicians find medical facilities with demonstrated expertise in specialty care. These facilities are subject to periodic re-evaluation of quality measures; reassessing their structure, processes and patient outcomes.

Sanford Health & MeritCare has a proven track record for meeting aggressive quality standards, and our newly combined organization will continue to enhance this excellent care,” said Becky Nelson, Sanford Health & MeritCare Sr. Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “Our patients can be assured we will exceed their expectations because of our experienced and talented physicians and staff.”

The selection criteria used in designating Blue Distinction Centers for Knee and Hip Replacement were developed in collaboration with expert physicians and medical organizations. Criteria include: 

  • An established knee and hip replacement program, performing required annual volumes for certain procedures (e.g., at least 100 total hip and total knee joint replacement surgeries [primary and revision] per year, with a minimum of 25 each total hip and total knee replacements). 
  • An experienced knee and hip replacement surgery team, including surgeons with board certification, subspecialty fellowship training and required case volumes for knee and hip replacement procedures. 
  • An established acute care inpatient facility, including intensive care, emergency care and a full range of patient support services.

To be designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery the following types of criteria were evaluated: 

  • Established acute care inpatient facility, including intensive care, emergency care, and a full range of patient support services with full accreditation by a CMS-deemed national accreditation organization 
  • Experience and training of program surgeons, including case volume 
  • Quality management programs, including surgical checklists as well as tracking and evaluation of clinical outcomes and process of care
  • Multi-disciplinary clinical pathways and teams to coordinate and streamline care, including transitions of care 
  • Shared decision making and preoperative patient education

The Blue Distinction designation is awarded by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to medical facilities that have demonstrated expertise in delivering quality healthcare in the areas of bariatric surgery, cardiac care, complex and rare cancers, knee and hip replacement, spine surgery and transplants. The program is part of The Blues® efforts to collaborate with physicians and medical facilities to improve the overall quality and safety of specialty care.

Both Sanford and MeritCare previously received the Blue Distinction designation in cardiac care and bariatrics. To see a list of the specific selection criteria for the Blue Distinction Centers visit

About Sanford Health & MeritCare
Sanford Health & MeritCare consists of two long-standing health systems in the Dakotas who merged in 2009; Sanford Health based in Sioux Falls, SD and MeritCare based in Fargo, ND. The largest, rural, not-for-profit healthcare system in the nation, Sanford Health & MeritCare serves six states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma). It includes 30 hospitals with a total of 1,600 beds, as well as more than 800 physicians in numerous clinics in more than 70 specialty areas of medicine. With 17,400 employees, Sanford Health & MeritCare is the largest employer in North and South Dakota. For more information, visit