Foundation system

Alice L. Walton Foundation, Washington Regional Partner on New Health System

Photo: Washington Regional Medical System

The Alice L. Walton Foundation and the Washington Regional Medical System announced Monday that they will create a new health care system as part of a larger plan to improve access to specialty health services in northwest Washington. Arkansas.

Last year, the foundation announced a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic to assess the types of specialized care needed in the region, and then make recommendations on how to achieve those improvements.

A 2019 report showed that many Northwest Arkansas residents are currently traveling elsewhere for specialty care. These results indicated that the region lost an estimated $950 million in 2018 when local residents sought specialist care elsewhere.

Adding specialty services to meet this demand, research shows, could bring more than $2 billion to the local healthcare economy by 2040 and could make northwest Arkansas a destination for specialized care. New specialty services could include cardiac care, digestive health, neuroscience, oncology, orthopedics, spine and behavioral health.

A graph shows the current and projected economic implications of improving specialist health care services to reduce the number of local residents seeking special care elsewhere.

Graphic courtesy of the Northwest Arkansas Council

“This partnership is about access, ensuring residents of our thriving region have easy access to world-class healthcare services, including specialty care,” said Walmart heiress Alice Walton.

All three organizations have unique strengths, Walton said, which together can “bring a broader reach and scale of services to our region and beyond.”

Walton in 2020 announced the creation of the Whole Health Institute and last year unveiled plans to build a new nonprofit medical school. Both organizations will focus on redesigning health systems.

At the time, Walton said a holistic approach that integrates mind, body, and spirit could be part of a preventative health-focused solution by educating doctors on the importance of exercise and nutrition.

“It’s critical that our health care system focus on the whole person — body, mind, and spirit — to truly serve the community and improve health and well-being,” Walton said. “Through this new partnership, we have the opportunity to take a transformative and innovative approach that can improve health outcomes now and pave the way to a healthier tomorrow.”

The foundation and Washington Regional will soon begin developing operational plans for the new system, and the goal is to finalize next steps by the end of the year, according to a press release.

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit, multispecialty academic medical center that fuses clinical and hospital care with research and education. US News & World Report recently named the Cleveland Clinic the No. 2 hospital in the nation and ranked it No. 1 in cardiac care for 27 consecutive years.