Saint Joseph East Marks Lands Tenth Consecutive Recognition for Higher Quality in Bariatric Surgery

Saint Joseph East

For the tenth year in a row, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Kentucky has recognized Saint Joseph East with a Blue Distinction® Center for Bariatric Surgery designation as part of the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program. Blue Distinction Centers are nationally designated health care facilities that show expertise in delivering improved patient safety and better health outcomes, based on objective measures that were developed with input from the medical community.

To receive a Blue Distinction Center for Bariatric Surgery designation, a health care facility must demonstrate success in meeting patient safety measures as well as bariatric-specific quality measures, including complication and readmission rate for laparoscopic procedures in sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass and adjustable gastric band. A health care facility must also be nationally accredited at both the facility and bariatric program-specific levels.

In 2017, the Blue Distinction Centers for Bariatric Surgery program expanded to include not only the type of service provided, but also the site of care. Health care facilities were evaluated as either a comprehensive center or as an ambulatory surgery center.

“The Blue Distinction designation assures our patients they are getting the quality care they expect,” said Karen Hillenmeyer, PA-C, bariatric program director, Saint Joseph East. “So far, we've performed more than 6,000 weight loss procedures and today’s bariatric patients have even more options available. Our team customizes treatment plans so the procedure is the right fit for the individual.”

Bariatric surgeries are among the most common elective surgeries in the United States, providing significant opportunity to improve quality within the health care system. There were 196,000 bariatric surgeries performed in 2015, according to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), and the average cost is more than $28,000 per episode, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It’s estimated that about 36 percent of U.S. adults and 17 percent of youth are obese and impacted by obesity-related health conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those numbers are even higher in Kentucky. The estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related conditions are nearly $210 billion per year in the U.S., according to the Journal of Health Economics. On average, health care costs were reduced by 29 percent within five years following bariatric surgery, due to the reduction or elimination of obesity-related conditions, according to ASMBS.

“Saint Joseph East’s commitment to quality is commendable and their designation as a Blue Distinction Center is well-earned,” said Kennan Wethington, president, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Kentucky. “The Blue Distinction program is an important part of Anthem’s commitment to helping our members access high-quality, affordable doctors and hospitals here in Kentucky.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies across the nation have recognized more than 550 health care facilities as Blue Distinction Centers for Bariatric Surgery. Health care facilities recognized with this designation are assessed using a combination of publicly available quality information and cost measures derived from BCBS companies’ medical claims.

Since 2006, the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality specialty care in the areas of bariatric surgery, cancer care, cardiac care, maternity care, knee and hip replacements, spine surgery, and transplants, while encouraging health care professionals to improve the care they deliver. Research shows that compared to other health care facilities, those designated as Blue Distinction Centers demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients.

For more information about the program and for a complete listing of the designated facilities, please visit