Walton, Cleveland Clinic partnership aims to boost specialty healthcare in NWA

A chart shows the current and projected economic implications of improving specialty healthcare services to reduce how many local residents seek special care elsewhere.

Graphic courtesy of Northwest Arkansas Council

Walmart heir Alice Walton and her foundation this week announced a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic to improve access to specialty healthcare services in Northwest Arkansas.

The two organizations will evaluate which types of specialty care are needed in the region and then come up with recommendations on how to achieve those improvements.

A recent study shows there are many Northwest Arkansas residents who currently travel elsewhere for specialty care, according to the Northwest Arkansas Council.

Findings from the study show that Northwest Arkansas lost an estimated $950 million in 2018 when local residents sought specialty care outside the region. By adding specialty services to satisfy that demand, research found that more than $2 billion could be added to the local healthcare economy by 2040, possibly making Northwest Arkansas a destination for specialty care.

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

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

“We believe it is our responsibility to provide more patients with access to Cleveland Clinic’s safe, quality and compassionate care,” said Tom Mihaljevic, president of Cleveland Clinic. “The Alice L. Walton Foundation shares this commitment to serving others, and we are pleased to work together in support of the Northwest Arkansas community.”

Photo: Cleveland Clinic

According to a news release, the foundation and clinic envision that any future specialty care initiatives they may develop in the region would collaborate with the Whole Health Institute to identify opportunities for increased patient experience and engagement, with the goal of improving health outcomes.

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

“I’m delighted to work with Cleveland Clinic to determine how best to bring world class specialty care to Northwest Arkansas,” said Walton in a statement. “Our thriving region has always had a culture of collaboration and focus on serving the community’s needs. As we grow and welcome new residents daily, we will all benefit from increased access to excellent and innovative care.”