Alice L. Walton Foundation, Washington Regional partner on new healthcare system

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 6,536 views 

Washington Regional Medical System in Fayetteville.

The nonprofit Alice L. Walton Foundation (ALWF) in Bentonville and Washington Regional Medical System in Fayetteville are planning to create a new regional health system that will also involve the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic.

Walton, the philanthropist and only daughter of Walmart Inc. founders Sam and Helen Walton, and her foundation announced a partnership with Cleveland Clinic last summer. Their goal is to improve specialty care access in Northwest Arkansas, including cardiac care, digestive health, neurosciences, oncology, orthopedics/spine and behavioral health.

Building on that announcement, the foundation and Washington Regional announced their intention Monday (April 25) to develop operational strategies for their new partnership and finalize their next steps by the end of the year.

When asked if the partnership will lead to new facilities, a spokeswoman representing ALWF and Washington Regional said it’s too early in the partnership to determine any future developments. Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

Alice Walton

“This partnership is all about access, ensuring that residents of our thriving region have ready access to world-class healthcare services, including specialty care,” Walton said in a statement. “We’re bringing together three organizations with unique strengths — including Washington Regional’s excellence in serving this community, Cleveland Clinic’s innovative care, and my foundation’s focus on enhancing access — to offer a broader scope and scale of services to our region and beyond.”

Founded in 2017, the Alice L. Walton Foundation works to enhance the quality of life for individuals and communities by providing access to offerings that enhance well-being. In 2020, she announced the formation of the Whole Health Institute in Bentonville. Last year, Walton announced the Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Bentonville. Both focus on redesigning the systems that impact health and well-being to make whole health accessible and affordable.

“It’s essential that our healthcare 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.”

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit, multispecialty, academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education.

According to a news release, the goals of the foundation’s partnership with Washington Regional will be to:

  • Increase access to specialty care services that will allow patients and families to receive innovative care closer to home.
  • Expand clinical services to reflect the growth of the Northwest Arkansas region.
  • Build a regional health system that focuses on delivering high-quality, whole-person services across the continuum of care.
  • Strengthen the transformation to value-based care in the region to ensure high-quality, affordable care for the community.
  • Develop a partnership with the Whole Health School of Medicine to establish a regional academic health system in Northwest Arkansas.
  • Train the next generation of clinicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, and caregivers in the region.
  • Bolster research capabilities of the Washington Regional Medical System.
Larry Shackelford

“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,” Washington Regional CEO Larry Shackelford said in the release. “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.”

It’s uncertain how the ALWF/Washington Regional partnership will impact other health systems and providers in the region.

“Northwest Arkansas’ culture of collaboration between health systems and providers would help ensure that the region benefits from additional healthcare resources,” the partners said in a joint statement.