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For Immediate Release

For more information, contact:
David Kanihan, 612-262-4986/612-867-2845 mobile


Allina hospitals receive Blue Distinction Center designations

MINNEAPOLIS 01/27/2010--Six Allina Hospitals & Clinics hospitals have been designated as Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) Blue Distinction Centers. Blue Distinction recognizes 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.

Blue Distinction Center for Spine SurgeryAbbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and United Hospital in St. Paul were recognized for their demonstrated expertise in offering comprehensive inpatient spine surgery services, including disectomy, fusion and decompression procedures by board certified spine surgeons.

Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement  – Abbott Northwestern Hospital's Joint Replacement Center, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, Owatonna Hospital, St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, United Hospital and Unity Hospital in Fridley were recognized for their demonstrated expertise in offering comprehensive total knee and hip replacements.

"This national distinction recognizes the clinical talent we have in our spine and orthopedic care teams," said Penny Wheeler, MD, Allina's chief clinical officer. "We're committed to ensuring our patients receive a positive, quality experience from the collaborative efforts of nursing, rehabilitation medicine, physical therapy, anesthesiology and patient safety."

The selection criteria used to evaluate facilities were developed with input from a panel of expert physicians.  To be designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery and a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement, the following types of criteria were evaluated.  More information on selection criteria is available on

  • 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

Blue Distinction puts a high value on research and evidence-based health and medical information," said Allan Korn, MD, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association's chief medical officer. "Blue Distinction Centers show our commitment to working with doctors and hospitals in communities across the country to identify leading institutions that meet clinically validated quality standards and deliver better overall outcomes in patient care."

The additional Blue Distinction Centers for Spine Surgery and Blue Distinction Centers for Knee and Hip Replacement designations will bring the nation's number of Blue Distinction designations to more than 1,600—and this number is expected to increase in the coming years. 

Other Blue Distinction Centers at Allina Hospitals & Clinics include:

  • Blue Distinction Center for Bariatric Surgery – Abbott Northwestern Hospital, United Hospital and Unity Hospital in 2008
  • Blue Distinction Center for Cardiac Care – Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Mercy Hospital and United Hospital in 2009
  • Blue Distinction Center for Complex and Rare Cancers – Abbott Northwestern Hospital in 2008

Designation as Blue Distinction Centers means these facilities' overall experience and aggregate data met objective criteria established in collaboration with expert clinicians' and leading professional organizations' recommendations. Individual outcomes may vary. To find out which services are covered under your policy at any facilities, please call your local Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield Plan. This quality designation helps consumers make better, informed decisions in selecting providers while improving the overall delivery of patient care. Research has shown that patients at Blue Distinction facilities spend less time in the hospital following surgery, and also experience much lower readmissions rates and fewer medical complications.

For a detailed summary of the criteria for becoming a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip and Spine Surgery, visit

About Allina Hospitals & Clinics

Allina Hospitals & Clinics is a not-for-profit system of hospitals, clinics and other health care services, providing care throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Allina owns and operates 11 hospitals, more than 90 clinics, and health care services, including home care, hospice care, palliative care, oxygen and medical equipment, pharmacies and emergency medical transportation.

More about Allina and the latest health information can be found online at

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota's first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota.

A nonprofit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health plan based in Minnesota, covering 2.8 million members in Minnesota and nationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliated companies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Each BlueCross and Blue Shield plan is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

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