The American College of Emergency Physicians' State by State Report Card measures the conditions under which emergency care is provided, not the quality of care at hospitals. Arkansas flunked in two categories, access to care and public health and injury prevention.
Dr. Danelle Richards, the Emergency Department Medical Director for Northwest Health System in Bentonville, says the ranking doesn't really reflect the emergency service climate in this corner of the Natural State.
"When we look at the entire state, that brings our numbers down," she says. "When you look at Northwest Arkansas, in this area, in this pocket of Arkansas, the emergency care is excellent."
The report card grades each state on five categories, and a shortage of emergency physicians plus the lowest per capita rate of doctors who accept medicare earned the state an "F" for access to emergency care.
"That would encourage us as a state and as a supporting community, to look at our areas of deficit, and encourage us to improve," Richards says.
Arkansas also failed in public health and injury prevention, thanks to a high number of fatal car accidents, and high smoking and obesity rates.
"We see a lot of motor vehicle accidents in our area, especially with the interstate system," she says. "The number one cause of trauma in Arkansas is motor vehicle accidents, and number two is suicide."
She says Arkansas is working to improve care, through education, both for healthcare providers, and the general public.
"Encouraging preventative care like car seats for kids, seatbelts, injury prevention, that's a big part," she says. "Stroke care, especially, is something that's really taking off here in Arkansas."
Richards doesn't want people to be discouraged by the low rank.
"We need to take those reports, study those, dissect those, figure out our areas of deficit, and use it as an educational opportunity," she says.
Arkansas best score was a "D" in quality and patient safety, placing it 41st in the nation. The overall ranking, is actually an improvement, the state placed dead last in 2009.