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Alice L. Walton Foundation and Washington Regional Medical System Form Partnership to Create a Transformative Health Care System in Northwest Arkansas

The Alice L. Walton Foundation and Washington Regional Medical System announced their intention to create a regional health system to improve health outcomes across Northwest Arkansas and beyond.

The announcement follows the news last year of a joint initiative through the Alice L. Walton Foundation and Cleveland Clinic to identify ways to provide access to Cleveland Clinic’s renowned specialty care services in Northwest Arkansas. The initiative was formed after a study highlighted that area residents frequently leave the region in order to receive specialty care.

Through these two initiatives, the Alice L. Walton Foundation and Washington Regional Medical System intend to work with Cleveland Clinic to support the growth of health care services in the region.

“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,” says philanthropist Alice Walton. “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.”

This new partnership will:

  • Increase access to specialty care services that will make it possible for 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.

“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,” says Larry Shackelford, President and CEO for 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.”

The Alice L. Walton Foundation and Washington Regional Medical System will now begin to develop operational plans for this new partnership, with an intent to finalize next steps during the remainder of this year.

The initiative between the Alice L. Walton Foundation and Cleveland Clinic focuses on developing solutions to provide patients in Northwest Arkansas greater specialty care access, which may include cardiac care, digestive health, neurosciences, oncology, orthopedics/spine and behavioral health.

“Cleveland Clinic is pleased to collaborate with the Alice L. Walton Foundation to touch more patients’ lives,” says Tom Mihaljevic, M.D., CEO and President, Cleveland Clinic. “We are committed to delivering the best possible care, by sharing our expertise in clinical care, research and education with the Northwest Arkansas community.” 

Founded in 2017, the Alice L. Walton Foundation works to enhance quality of life for individuals and communities through providing access to offerings that enhance well-being. In 2020, Walton announced the formation of Whole Health Institute, and in 2021 she announced the formation of the Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Both of these organizations, based in Bentonville, Ark., focus on redesigning the systems that impact health and well-being with the goal of making whole health accessible and affordable to all.

In partnership with Washington Regional Medical System and Cleveland Clinic, the foundation will focus on infusing whole health principles into the clinical, educational, and operational practices of this new health care system with the goal of improving health outcomes in the region and enhancing value-based care. The system will work with Whole Health School of Medicine to support academic and teaching opportunities as well.

“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,” said Walton. “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.”