Northwest Arkansas Council

Tripp Umbach was invited by the Northwest Arkansas Council (NWA), a private, nonprofit organization, to complete a comprehensive health care sector needs assessment and economic impact study. The Northwest Arkansas Council works to advance economic vitality and improve the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas. It partners with stakeholders across the region, state, and nation in priority areas including workforce development, infrastructure improvement, talent recruitment, and education.

The study assisted the Council with a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between healthcare and economic success. Tripp Umbach analyzed current strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities and recommend actions to ensure that the Northwest Arkansas Region can meet the health care needs and achieve maximum economic development over the next 20+years.

Unlike traditional healthcare assessments with the purpose of focusing exclusively on the access, quality, or capacity of healthcare services, this report also recommends actions intended to drive regional economic prosperity, advance quality of life, reduce costs, and increase productivity through collaboration. A critical step in this assessment was to create a Regional Healthcare Steering Committee, including an array of leaders from education, healthcare, economic development, nonprofit organizations, and bioscience. The Regional Steering Committee members provided guidance and support for this assessment.

Tripp Umbach facilitated work sessions, one-on-one interviews, and site visits over a 10-month period. To supplement interviews and face-to-face engagement, the firm examined quantitative data to define the region’s strengths and challenges. Early in the assessment, Tripp Umbach identified that the region’s strengths include an established primary care base with relatively high-quality, low-cost healthcare compared to other regions across the United States. However, Tripp Umbach confirmed that the Northwest Arkansas healthcare sector is underperforming in economic impact compared to peer markets.

Key findings from the study formed the foundation for a series of recommended actions the region must undertake during the next 10 years to ensure Northwest Arkansas has a vibrant healthcare economy that grows to become a healthcare destination by 2040. Enhancing a region’s healthcare sector requires a multi-pronged approach that reaches beyond training and retaining physicians.

A key element of the equation is not only the size of the workforce, but also the availability of a quality, well-trained physician workforce. Most importantly, the plan emphasizes the need for increased collaboration among healthcare providers, researchers, universities, and the business community and the need for a dedicated roadmap for future healthcare sector investments.

Improved connectivity among Northwest Arkansas’s employers, community health initiatives, and healthcare providers is important to achieving long-term economic and social outcomes.

Tripp Umbach analysis found that Northwest Arkansas’ economic future will be strengthened by targeted health-sector growth initiatives. For example, key findings suggested that if specialty services are added to satisfy regional demand, they will be able to add more than $2 billion a year to the healthcare economy by 2040 and transform Northwest Arkansas into a thriving healthcare destination.

Ultimately, the assessment and impact study identified a pathway toward establishing sustainable economic and social impact, improved health care access, and improved quality of care (i.e., a place where investments are targeted to improve population health outcomes and to inspire healthy behaviors). Recognizing that no single organization has the resources required to maximize economic development potential, Tripp Umbach recommended an umbrella organization should be utilized to coordinate regional focus areas related to healthcare sector economic development.

You can read the full report here