BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. – In an effort to help prospective parents find hospitals that deliver quality maternity care, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia announced that United Hospital Center has been designated as one of the first hospitals to receive the Blue Distinction® Center for Maternity Care designation, a new designation under the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program.

Nearly four million babies are born in the U.S. annually, making childbirth the most common cause of hospitalization. This new Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care program evaluates hospitals on several quality measures, including the percentage of newborns that fall into the category of early elective delivery, an ongoing concern in the medical community. Compared with babies born 39 weeks or later, early term infants face higher risks of infant death and respiratory ailments, such as respiratory distress syndrome, pneumonia, and respiratory failure, among other conditions. These babies also have a higher rate of admission to neonatal intensive care units.

In addition, hospitals that receive a Blue Distinction Center for Maternity Care designation agreed to meet requirements that align with principles that support evidence-based practices of care, as well as having initiated programs to promote successful breastfeeding, as described in the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative by Baby-Friendly USA or the Mother-Friendly Hospital program by the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) through its “Ten Steps of Mother-Friendly Care.” The program also evaluates hospitals on overall patient satisfaction, including a willingness to recommend the hospital to others.  

Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care, an expansion of the national Blue Distinction Specialty Care program, are hospitals recognized for delivering quality specialty care safely and effectively, based on objective measures developed with input from the medical community.

Obstetrics at UHC has been partners in perinatal quality for many years,” Jason Honaker, M.D., chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at UHC and assistant professor at the WVU School of Medicine. “This distinction is an objective source for parents to use when selecting a quality hospital.”

“Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia extends its sincere congratulations to United Hospital Center for their dedication to quality, patient safety, and transparency that is required to achieve this great distinction. With consumer-driven healthcare programs like Blue Distinction, and the significant effort of our partner practitioners and facilities, Highmark can now enable our members the opportunity to make wise, value-driven healthcare decisions," Dr. Mark Piasio, medical director, clinical services, Highmark Inc., said.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies across the nation have recognized more than 280 hospitals as Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care. Hospitals recognized for these designations were assessed using a combination of publicly available quality information and cost measures derived from BCBS companies’ medical claims.

“This honor is a reflection of UHC’s commitment to consistently practicing evidence-based standards,” Mark Povroznik, M.D., UHC vice president of quality and chief quality officer, said. “The Blue Distinction Center for Maternity Care will serve as the basis for promoting quality maternity care on a national level, and UHC is honored to be recognized as one of the first in the state." 

Since 2006, the Blue Distinction 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. Research shows that, compared to other facilities, those designated as Blue Distinction Centers demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients.

For more information about the program, visit

For more information: Matt Chisler, Director of Public Relations at United Hospital Center, 681-342-1611