The Center of Excellence: Delivering Better Healthcare at a Lower Cost

Competitive innovation is disrupting and positively transforming the delivery and quality of healthcare in a positive way, both for the healthcare provider and the patient. Direct to Employer (DTE) plans are ignoring or bypassing traditional intermediary insurance providers. Instead, employers are establishing relationships directly with healthcare providers. They are also negotiating directly with hospitals and doctors. Particularly, employers are dealing with healthcare centers of excellence. This move by employers to exclude or bypass the insurance company has been an industry disruptor, to say the least. But, more significantly, the DTE approach has markedly reduced employer healthcare costs, streamlined services, and improved patient compliance. The improvement in population health reduces healthcare costs to employers who have taken on the full risk for their employees. Employers save in both the purchase and provision of health care. Employees get better, patient-centered care. The healthcare provider profits. Everybody wins.

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What is a “center of excellence?”

Since the “center of excellence” is a key feature of this innovative approach, it deserves focused attention. When formally defined, a center of excellence (CoE) is a program within an existing healthcare institution that is assembled and purposed to supply an exceptionally high concentration of expertise and related resources. The expertise and resources are centered or focused on a particular area of medicine, and the CoE delivers associated care in a comprehensive, interdisciplinary manner to afford the best patient outcomes possible. In short, a CoE is a type of integrated practice unit and integrated healthcare delivery model. As such, a center of excellence is a place where excellence on a single medical front is delivered to patients in a unique, intensely focused manner.

Narrowly, a center of excellence offers a succinct palate of services, but the quality of the service and the customer experience are of the highest possible quality.

Examples of specialty areas

Specialty areas frequently provided in centers of excellence include:

  • cardiology
  • orthopedics
  • ophthalmology
  • oncology
  • bariatric surgery
  • neurology

To clarify, “center of excellence” is a self-designation and not a standard and certifications criteria. Understandably, some observers would assume that in the highly regulated healthcare industry use of the “center of excellence” designation would be restricted. Only those providers who meet prescribed standards and hold associated certifications would or should be allowed to use the designation. These restrictions or limitations are not the cases, in general. The “center of excellence” designation can be applied at will by healthcare establishments, with only a few exceptions.

Self-designation requires institutional responsibility and internal accountability

This liberty, however, must be exercised responsibly. Healthcare institutions must take great care to make application of the designation only in warranted, legitimate cases. “Center of Excellence” must be much more than a marketing slogan. It must be an authentic, accurate description of the services rendered.


With regards to presentation, the application of the CoE designation measures across the spectrum. Some institutions actively promote the designation. They include the designation in the formal brand name of the entity. An example would be Knightsbridge Center of Excellence for Cardiovascular Health.

Other entities take a more subtle approach. They list it as a secondary reference underscoring the brand name of the particular healthcare institution. An example would be the Meadowbrook Heart Clinic, A Center of Excellence in Cardiovascular Care.

Some entities forego the active promotion of the designation altogether. Instead, they simply operate the associated model and let the quality delivered ultimately serve as the promotional mechanism.

Sometimes, the naming of the institutional structures that house centers of excellence vary from facility to facility and sometimes even within given healthcare establishments. Some are labeled centers. Some are referred to as institutes, while others identify themselves simply as departments.

The structures mentioned above do carry a technical distinction. However, in practice, many institutions use the terms interchangeably. The selections are based on institutional preferences.

Unique Value Proposition: Delivering enhanced healthcare experiences

The use of the designation “center of excellence” differs in application from entity to entity. Institutional structures vary among organizations that house these centers. It seems apparent that in well-assembled and well-operated CoE’s, their root value does not fundamentally rest in their promotional potential. Their authentic value rests more in their ability to deliver enhanced healthcare experiences. Their validation is grounded upon the quality of the services they provide, the performance of the healthcare team, and the overall customer experience.

This qualification is consistent with commonly observed missions of healthcare institutions. Their mission statements routinely emphasize patient care above all other elements of operation.

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The healthcare industry is experiencing challenges and disruptions from within and from without. Employers seeking healthcare for their large employee populations are pursuing bold, innovative approaches that are disrupting the traditional healthcare paradigm. The Center of Excellence model is attractive to employers and beneficial to the patients being served. The models are dynamic and responsive. The future looks bright.

To learn more about healthcare consulting, contact CSuite Solutions at (813) 866-5100.

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