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Iowa Specialty Hospital receives Blue Distinction® designation for quality, cost-effective bariatric surgery

February 8, 2016

Wellmark® Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® has recognized Iowa Specialty Hospital in Belmond to receive a Blue Distinction® Center+ designation in the area of bariatric surgery by the Blue Distinction® Centers for Specialty Care program. Blue Distinction® Centers are nationally designated health care facilities shown to deliver quality specialty care based on objective measures, which were developed with input from the medical community, for patient safety and better health outcomes. 

“We are incredibly proud of our bariatric surgery program,” commented Iowa Specialty Hospital President and CEO Steve Simonin. “Our program, led by Dr. Todd Eibes, draws patients from all over Central and Northern Iowa, and beyond.  The over 350 patients we have served credit Dr. Eibes and his team with giving them a fresh start on life and, in many cases, likely saving their lives.”

To receive a Blue Distinction Center+ for Bariatric Surgery designation, a healthcare facility must demonstrate success in meeting patient safety, as well as bariatric-specific quality measures, including complications and readmissions, for gastric stapling and/or gastric banding procedures. A health care facility must also have earned national accreditations at both the facility level and the specific bariatric care level, as well as demonstrate better cost efficiency relative to its peers.

Quality is key: Only those facilities that first meet Blue Distinction’s nationally established, objective quality measures are considered for designation as a Blue Distinction Center+. Iowa Specialty Hospital is proud to be recognized by Wellmark for meeting the rigorous selection criteria for bariatric surgery set by the Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care program.

“Bariatric surgeries are among the most common elective surgeries in the U.S., which provides a significant opportunity to improve quality and efficiency within the healthcare system,” said Timothy Gutshall, M.D., Wellmark vice president and chief medical officer. “Wellmark congratulates Iowa Specialty Hospital for its commitment to quality and helping patients better manage their care through the Blue Distinction specialty care program.” 

There were 179,000 bariatric surgeries performed in 2013, according to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, and the average cost is more than $28,000 per episode, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Furthermore, it is estimated that 72 million Americans are obese and 24 million suffer from morbid obesity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related illnesses are $190.2 billion, or nearly 21 percent of annual medical spending in the U.S., according to the Journal of Health Economics.

At Iowa Specialty Hospital, patients stay one to two nights and recovery time is quick.  Most patients are back to work within two weeks.  In addition to the surgery procedure, Iowa Specialty Hospital’s Iowa Weight Loss Specialist team provides nutritional and psychological counseling and support groups to help ensure patient success. Ninety percent of patients lose at least half of their excess weight the first year. 

“We pride ourselves not only on our successful weight-loss outcomes for our bariatric surgery patients, but on the fact that we hear, time and time again, how thankful they are for the caring and respectful environment we provide,” commented Amy McDaniel, CEO of Iowa Specialty Hospital - Belmond. “Our medical staff treat each patient as we would treat a member of our family and, indeed, we consider our patients part of our hospital family.”

Research shows that facilities designated as Blue Distinction Centers+ demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients compared with their peers. On average, Blue Distinction Centers+ are also 20 percent or more cost efficient than non-BDC+ designated health care facilities. 

Since 2006, the Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality providers for their specialty care needs in the areas of bariatric surgery, cardiac care, complex and rare cancers, knee and hip replacements, spine surgery, and transplants while encouraging health care professionals to improve the care they deliver. For more information about the program and for a complete listing of the designated facilities, please visit

About Blue Distinction® Centers 
Blue Distinction Centers (BDC) met overall quality measures for patient safety and outcomes, developed with input from the medical community. Blue Distinction Centers+ (BDC+) also met cost measures that address consumers’ need for affordable healthcare. Individual outcomes may vary. National criteria is displayed on A Local Blue Plan may require additional criteria for facilities located in its own service area. For details on Local Blue Plan Criteria, a provider’s in-network status, or your own policy’s coverage, contact your Local Blue Plan. Each facility’s cost of care is evaluated using data from its Local Blue Plan. Facilities in CA, ID, NY, PA, and WA may lie in two Local Blue Plans’ areas, resulting in two evaluations for cost of care; and their own Local Blue Plans decide whether one or both cost of care evaluation(s) must meet BDC+ national criteria. Neither Blue Cross Blue Shield Association nor any Blue Plans are responsible for damages or non-covered charges resulting from Blue Distinction or other provider finder information or care received from Blue Distinction or other providers.

About Iowa Specialty Hospital, located in north central Iowa, offers focused, specialized care with a compassionate touch.  With campuses in Belmond and Clarion, and outreach clinics in Clear Lake, Fort Dodge, Hampton and Webster City, they employ over 500 employees and over 35 providers and specialists.  They live the qualities of high standards of behavior which lead to a family-like work environment.  
Iowa Specialty Hospital has hardwired principles built on quality, service, people, finances, growth and community, to sustain success. While excellent quality healthcare is the most important factor, patients experience the true compassion of healing from highly trained and caring staff.  Iowa Specialty Hospital offers state-of-the-art, unparalleled technology and services including: orthopedics, bariatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery, radiology, nursing services, family practice, ER, laboratory, rehabilitation, cardiopulmonary, pharmacy services, and a wide array of specialty services. For more information on Iowa Specialty Hospital, visit

About Wellmark
Wellmark, Inc. ( ) does business as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Wellmark and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, including Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc., insure or pay health benefit claims for more than 2 million members in Iowa and South Dakota. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota, and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc. are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

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