CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has designated Memorial Hospital as a Blue Distinction Center for Bariatric Surgery. To date, more than 200 facilities nationwide have received a Blue Distinction Center for Bariatric Surgery designation.

Obesity is widely recognized as a contributor to serious health risks. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the total number of Americans having weight-loss surgery more than quadrupled between 1998 and 2002, from 13,386 to 71,733. Part of the increase was driven by a 900 percent rise in surgeries on patients between the ages of 55 and 64. Blue Distinction provides objective information to help patients make informed decisions when choosing a provider.

“We are pleased to receive this special designation from BlueCross BlueShield Association,” says Interim Memorial President and CEO Debra L. Moore. “This recognition provides the consumers with a level of confidence about the integrity of our program, expertise of our physicians, and commitment of our staff.”

Memorial Hospital’s comprehensive surgical weight management program offers patients two of the most common and effective surgical procedures for weight loss -- Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass Roux-en-Y and the Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Band. These procedures are effective weight loss tools for those 100 pounds overweight or more.

“Blue Distinction puts a high value on research and evidence-based health and medical information,” says Dr. Kenneth Patric, Jr., vice-president and chief medical officer of BlueCross Blue Shield of Tennessee. “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.”

Memorial Hospital met numerous selection criteria thresholds necessary to be named as a Blue Distinction Center for Bariatric Surgery, including:

• offering a full-service inpatient hospital facility

• being fully accredited by The Joint Commission or Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program

• performing a required volume of bariatric surgeries during the recent 12 month reporting period

• being staffed by an experienced and appropriately credentialed bariatric surgical team

• being supported by appropriate equipment and staffing

• establishing documented policies and procedures for patient care and follow-up care

• demonstrating a commitment to quality improvement, as demonstrated by its ongoing quality management and improvement programs

The full list of Blue Distinction selection criteria is available to the public at www.BCBS.com/bluedistinction.

Blue Distinction® is a designation awarded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to medical facilities that have demonstrated expertise in delivering quality healthcare. The designation is based on rigorous, evidence-based selection criteria established in collaboration with leading clinicians, medical societies and professional organizations. Today, more than 800 Blue Distinction Center designations have been awarded to facilities nationwide, providing consumers with a framework for making informed decisions on where to go for specialty care in the areas of bariatric surgery, cardiac care, complex and rare cancers, and transplants.

For further information about this designation, please visit http://www.bcbs.com/innovations/bluedistinction/blue-distinction-bariatric.

Note: 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.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.