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MeritCare Receives National Recognition for Surgical Excellence

MeritCare Medical Center recently received national recognition for spine surgical excellence. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association designated MeritCare as a Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery (SM).

"Being honored as a Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery (SM) illustrates the successes of our professional, caring staff," said Dennis Millirons, MeritCare Medical Center President. "Congratulations to the doctors, physicians, therapists, nurses and all those who helped make this a reality. The designation reiterates MeritCare's vision of providing the best care possible and always putting patients first."

Blue Distinction is designed to provide patients in need of specialty care credible information to make informed healthcare decisions. The designation is a mark of quality that helps patients and their physicians find medical facilities with demonstrated expertise in various clinical specialties. Facilities are examined based on quality measures, processes and outcomes for clinical care. These designated facilities are subject to periodic re-evaluation; assuring the qualified facilities continually provide surgical excellence.

Expert physicians and medical organizations collaborated to develop the selection criteria used in designating Blue Distinction Centers for Spine Surgery (SM). Medical facilities submit clinical data to establish they meet the selection criteria, which include:
  • An established spine surgery program, performing required annual volumes for certain procedures (e.g., at least 100 procedures annually for discectomy, fusion and/or decompression).

  • An experienced spine surgery team, including spine surgeons with board certification and case volumes that meet the selection criteria for spine surgery procedures.

  • An established acute care inpatient facility, including intensive care, emergency care and a full range of patient support services.

  • Full accreditation by a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)-deemed national accreditation organization.

  • A comprehensive quality management program.

  • Processes for patient selection and appropriateness of surgery.

  • Processes that support transitions of care.

  • Clinical outcomes that meet objective thresholds for specific procedures, such as complication rates and length of stay.

The Blue Distinction designation is awarded by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association 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.

MeritCare previously received the Blue Distinction Center designation in cardiac care, bariatrics and hip and knee replacement. To see a list of the specific selection criteria for the Blue Distinction Centers visit