NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — An analysis has found that millions of dollars of the billion spent on Northwest Arkansas Medicare enrollees’ healthcare in 2019 were spent on services provided outside of the 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.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement conducted the analysis and determined $240 million of the $1.1 billion was spent.

According to a press release, ACHI analyzed certain aspects of healthcare utilization among NWA residents to gain insight into the needs of the citizens and the demands being placed on the healthcare system of the region.

Other findings include that of the more than 75,000 cardiology procedures performed on Medicare enrollees who lived in NWA in 2019, 11%, or about 9,000, were provided outside the region. The percentages were higher for certain procedures, such as 14% of coronary artery bypass grafting surgeries and 20% of heart valve replacements that were provided outside the region.

Also included in the analysis, in 2019 there were nine cardiothoracic surgeons performing coronary artery bypass grafting surgery in Northwest Arkansas. Five of those surgeons — who performed procedures for 62% of the patients  — were over age 60, raising concerns about future provider supply.

“Our findings suggest that the demand for services in Northwest Arkansas was already straining the capacity of the existing healthcare infrastructure even before the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “Future examinations of the impact of COVID-19 and continued population growth in the region likely will show even greater strain on available services and provider supply.

Data used in the analysis were from the Arkansas Healthcare Transparency Initiative, which is administered by ACHI and includes the Arkansas All-Payer Claims Database, ACHI said.

Information from the analysis is also available on ACHI’s recently launched Northwest Arkansas-focused webpage at