Eric Pianalto: Investment in growth paying off
Northwest Arkansas isn’t like all regional communities. The area centered around Washington and Benton counties annually is recognized by multiple national publications and outlets as one of the best places to live in the country.
But its continued growth can also present challenges. Businesses — and given the evolving state of health care financing, especially health care providers — must take a long view when it comes to serving their market. Eric Pianalto, president of Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas, says Mercy’s commitment to expansion and physician recruitment is helping meet the changing needs of a dynamic community.
“The financing model for health care in Arkansas is very challenging and even more so in a growth community,” he says. “The needs of a growing community like Northwest Arkansas far exceed the ability to pay to fill those needs to build facilities and recruit the top clinicians to this area in real time.”
Pianalto says Mercy funded these needs by investing almost $300 million in facilities as well as physician and employee recruitment over the past three years. Mercy brought in roughly 100 new doctors and 1,000 new health care workers in that time.
“The investment is greatly needed. However, it will take several years under the current way we are paid today to begin to recover that large of an investment, and further investment is still needed,” he says.
Prior to expansion, Mercy was limited in its ability to offer new services. That’s no longer the case. Pianalto says the award-winning hospital now is at full capacity in its operating rooms, ICUs, neonatal intensive care unit, women’s and children’s and cardiac areas. The next few years at Mercy will see expansions in specialty care, improved access to more advanced procedures and new technology that will enable area residents to receive specialized care close to home.
“Mercy exists as a healing ministry to serve the needs of this entire community,” Pianalto says. “We take very seriously the responsibility to provide only the best to all of those we serve from the workforce of Fortune 500 companies to those without homes.”