Regional View: Northwest Arkansas

The healthcare landscape in Northwest Arkansas is evolving at a rapid pace. Population growth and increasing demand for care are creating unique opportunities for expansion and innovation in the health sector. ACHI continues to transform health data into actionable solutions for decision makers, providing insights on this fast-growing region.

Healthcare Utilization and Payment Spotlight

Of the $1.1 billion spent on Northwest Arkansas Medicare enrollees’ health care in 2019, $240 million was spent on services provided outside the region, an analysis by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement shows.

ACHI analyzed certain aspects of healthcare utilization among Northwest Arkansas residents to gain insight into the needs of the citizens and the demands being placed on the healthcare system of the state’s fastest-growing region. For purposes of the analysis, Northwest Arkansas was defined as Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington counties. Researchers focused on 2019 to obtain a view of a typical pre-pandemic year.

Heart disease received special focus because it is the leading cause of death among Arkansans and because cardiology is one of the most in-demand types of specialty care.

Total Payments by Location of Service for NWA Medicare Enrollees, 2019

Of the $1.1 billion in total payments for healthcare services or prescriptions for Northwest Arkansas Medicare enrollees in 2019, 22%, or about $240 million, was for services or prescriptions delivered outside the region.

Cardiology Procedures for NWA Medicare Enrollees, 2019

Of the more than 75,000 cardiology procedures performed on Medicare enrollees who lived in Northwest Arkansas in 2019, 11%, or about 9,000, were provided outside the region. The percentages were higher for certain procedures: 14% of coronary artery bypass grafting surgeries and 20% of heart valve replacements were provided outside the region.

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) Procedure Utilization & Location for NWA Medicare Enrollees, 2019

This graphic displays coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) procedure utilization and location of service for Northwest Arkansas Medicare enrollees.  

Valve Replacement Procedure Utilization and Location for NWA Medicare Enrollees, 2019

This graphic displays heart valve replacement procedure utilization and location of service for Northwest Arkansas Medicare enrollees.

maternal health

One Northwest Arkansas County Meets Definition of Maternity Care Desert

In Northwest Arkansas, Madison County is the only “maternity care desert” — defined as a county without any hospitals or birth centers that offer obstetric care and without any obstetric providers — according to a report by the March of Dimes analyzing Health Resources and Services Administration data. Nearly half of the counties in Arkansas meet this definition, which we discussed in a blog post.

Maternity Care Deserts in Northwest Arkansas and Statewide

The report notes that the number of counties nationwide meeting the definition of a maternity care desert — 1,119 — represents a 2% increase since the organization released its last report in 2020.

Carroll County, also in Northwest Arkansas, is identified in the analysis as one of four counties in Arkansas that are deemed as having “low access” to maternity care services. Low-access counties are defined as having at most one hospital or birth center providing obstetric care, few obstetric providers, or a high proportion of women 18–64 without health insurance. Carroll County also has the highest uninsured rate among residents aged 18 to 64 of the four counties in the region at 17.6%.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Arkansas had the highest maternal mortality rate across all states reporting data, with 40.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births between 2018 and 2020. Arkansas also had the third-highest infant mortality rate of all 50 states, with 7.38 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2020.

News Releases

ACHI Hires Director of Northwest Arkansas Community Engagement

LITTLE ROCK (Nov. 29, 2022) The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement announced today that Stephanie Blevins has joined the center in the newly created position of director of Northwest Arkansas community engagement.

Blevins comes to ACHI from the office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, where she served as the governor’s Northwest Arkansas district representative.

“Northwest Arkansas is in a state of rapid transformation, with increasing demands on its health and health care sectors,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “ACHI’s commitment to be a catalyst to improve the health of all Arkansans requires a dedicated presence in this region of the state. I am confident that Stephanie, with her years of experience engaging with community and business leaders in the region, will represent us well.”

Blevins said, “I’m excited to be a part of an organization that has done such amazing work to better the health of Arkansans for almost 25 years. With the explosive growth in the Northwest Arkansas health sector, I feel privileged to be part of the conversation in this part of the state.”

With Flu Cases and Deaths High, Arkansas Hospitals, ACHI Urge Flu Shots

ROGERS ― (Dec. 14, 2022) With flu cases and flu-related deaths high, Mercy Hospitals Arkansas, Washington Regional Medical Center, St. Bernards Healthcare, Baptist Health and the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement are joining forces to urge Arkansans to get their flu shots now to be protected in time for holiday gatherings and to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

“We are seeing an unusually high number of flu cases for this early in the flu season,” said Mercy Hospitals Arkansas President Ryan Gehrig. “I urge everyone who is not vaccinated to get a flu shot now so upcoming holiday celebrations do not put you and your loved ones at risk.”

Washinton Regional President and CEO Larry Shackleford said, “The high level of respiratory virus cases has not exceeded the capacity of our facility at this time, but the ‘tripledemic’ of flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, could make this winter a challenging one if people do not take precautions.”

Northwest Arkansas-Related Podcast Episodes

Grow as We Go: Ryan Cork

Our guest for this episode, Ryan Cork, is leading business-sector efforts in Northwest Arkansas to respond to a rapidly changing healthcare environment in the midst of population growth. Cork has extensive experience in healthcare administration, having worked in multiple roles for the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and The James Cancer Hospital. Currently serving as Northwest Arkansas Council’s Healthcare Transformation Division executive director, Cork shares how the council is responding to increased demand for healthcare services in the region and how businesses may have to adapt to the surging costs of employer-based health insurance.

About Us

About ACHI

ACHI is a nonpartisan, independent health policy center that serves as a catalyst for improving the health of all Arkansans through evidence-based research, public issue advocacy, and collaborative program development.

Healthy Choices

Understanding the relationships between lifestyles, decisions, and outcomes is essential for health.

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Healthy Communities

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