The Alice L. Walton Foundation and Washington Regional Medical System announced a partnership Monday with the goal of creating a regional health system to expand local residents' access to specialty care.
The partnership builds on a joint initiative announced last year between the foundation and Cleveland Clinic that aimed to assess ways of providing access to the clinic's specialty care services in Northwest Arkansas, according to a news release.
A study shows many residents leave the region to seek specialty care, the release states.
"This partnership is all about access, ensuring that residents of our thriving region have ready access to world-class health care services, including specialty care," philanthropist and Walmart heiress Alice Walton said.
The partnership is bringing together three organizations with unique strengths "to offer a broader scope and scale of services to our region and beyond," Walton said.
Specialty care services entail health specialists with knowledge or skill about a specific condition. Solutions to expand availability in Northwest Arkansas may include cardiac care, digestive health, neurosciences, oncology, orthopedics and behavioral health, the release states.
"The creation of the regional health system will advance our mission and vision, including expanding our clinical, academic, and operational capabilities, and continuing to invest in our facilities," said Larry Shackelford, president and chief executive officer of Washington Regional Medical System. "Our mission is to improve the health of area residents through compassionate, high-quality care and wellness education, and to act as the central hub for clinical, educational and research activities in Northwest Arkansas. This partnership provides the resources to take our health care services to the next level to best serve our growing community."
This year, the foundation will collaborate with Washington Regional to establish next steps, according to the release.
In addition to training health care workers in the area and supporting research at Washington Regional, the organizations will work with the Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences, "infusing whole health principles into the clinical, educational, and operational practices of this new health care system," the release states.
"It's essential 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. "With this new partnership, we have the opportunity to take a transformative, innovative approach that can improve health outcomes now and chart the course for a healthier future."
Walton announced the formation of the Whole Health Institute in January 2020 and plans for the Whole Health School of Medicine in March 2021. Both of the Bentonville organizations aim to reform health systems to make whole health more accessible.
Washington Regional Medical System is a community-owned, locally governed, nonprofit organization located in Northwest Arkansas.
Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit, multi-specialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, the hospital was named the No. 2 hospital in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's 2021-2022 rankings.