Altru Health System Recognized for Higher Quality and Cost-Efficiency in Maternity Care

Staff Report

Grand Forks-  Altru Health System is proud to be recognized by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota with a Blue Distinction® Centers+ (BDC+) for Maternity Care designation, as part of the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program. 

“We are beyond thankful for this recognition,” said Janice Hamscher, Chief Nursing Officer at Altru Health System. “It shows the care our providers put into our community by giving high quality and low-cost healthcare to our expectant mothers and their babies.”

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Racial and ethnic disparities are persistent and widespread across maternal healthcare, primarily driven by socioeconomic status, geographic location, and implicit provider bias. Compared to similarly developed countries such as Canada, Germany, and Australia, the United State has the highest maternal mortality rate (MMR), at approximately 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, with the MMR steadily increasing since 2000. According to the CDC, non-Hispanic Black women are two to three times more likely to die from preventable or treatable pregnancy-related complications compared to white women. 

To help address these gaps in care and to help ensure the better health of mothers, The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association enhanced its quality evaluation for the Maternity Care program to address key factors driving the United States’ maternal health crisis, such as preventable or treatable pregnancy-related conditions, high utilization of Caesarean sections, and racial and ethnic disparities in maternal healthcare.

“We are proud to be a part of the Blue Distinction Centers,” said Hamscher. “We, as a community, know the high-quality care that our family medicine and OBGYN teams put into every single patient. Thanks to Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, we now have a way to share that our teams are providing high quality and cost-effective care.”

Overall, cost of care episodes for vaginal and cesarean births at BDC+ facilities are 20% less than those at non-Blue Distinction Centers+ facilities. The rates of Episiotomies were 49% less those at Blue Distinction Centers (BDC and BDC+) than at those at non-Blue Distinction Centers (BDC and BDC+). In 2018, BDC/BDC+ facilities across the country cared for more than 40% of Blue Cross and Blue Shield commercially insured women giving birth.

Altru Health System is proud to be recognized by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota for meeting the rigorous Blue Distinction Centers+ quality selection criteria for maternity care set by the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program.  In 2020, the Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care Program was expanded beyond traditional outcome measures to include assessments of internal quality improvement, data collection and  dissemination, and internal protocols that better address clinical quality and equity issues in maternity care. New in the evaluation cycle, facilities must collect race ethnicity data, have a maternal quality improvement program, commence drills and simulations for adverse events, and have dedicated protocols and procedures for the management of hypertension and hemorrhage. In addition, they must meet clinical outcome metrics at a higher standard than required previously. Specifically, the rate for low risk first time cesarean sections (NTSV c-section rate, PC-02) has been aligned with the revised Healthy People 2020 goals. Facilities eligible for the Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity care show statistically significant differences in key clinical outcomes compared to their peers. 

Quality is key: only those health care facilities that first meet Blue Distinction’s nationally-established, objective quality measures will be considered for designation as a Blue Distinction Center+. 

“Achieving excellence in quality of care is the ultimate goal of BCBSND’s Blue distinction programs. Altru Health System has achieved the designation of a Blue Distinction Center of excellence for its level of care for Maternity. We believe in recognizing those health care facilities that reach the highest level of quality for our members,” says Chief Medical Officer Dr. Greg Glasner, MD, at BCBSND. “As a Blue Distinction Center, Altru Health System has demonstrated its commitment to its patients as well as its expertise in providing specialty care.”

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, cellular immunotherapy, fertility care, gene therapy, knee and hip replacement, maternity care, spine surgery, substance use treatment and recovery, and transplants, while encouraging healthcare professionals to improve the care they deliver. Research shows that, compared to other providers, 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 providers, visit . 

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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