Sole Community Hospital

What is a sole community hospital?

A sole community hospital (SCH) is the only source for hospital services in a geographic area. It is designated as such by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS classifies a hospital as a SCH if it is located more that 35 miles from other like hospitals, or it is located in a rural area and meets certain conditions related to market share and the accessibility to neighboring hospitals. 

There are three primary benefits of having an SCH:

  • Improves access to care for underserved populations
  • Provides essential services that would otherwise be unavailable
  • Promotes economic development in their communities

Sole community hospitals are a vital part of the healthcare system in the United States. These facilities are typically located in rural areas and serve as the only source of inpatient hospital care for residents. These hospitals often face unique challenges due to their remote location and lack of resources. As such, SCHs receive certain payment enhancements and protections to help keep these hospitals financially viable.  

Why is a sole community hospital important to healthcare?

In the U.S., a large percentage of the population lives in rural areas. Sole community hospitals play a vital role in ensuring that underserved populations have access to the care they need, especially those who do not have Medicare or Medicaid. In addition, SCHs often provide essential services that would otherwise be unavailable, such as trauma care and mental health services.

SCHs also promote economic development by creating jobs and supporting local businesses. By providing these benefits, SCHs play an important role in improving the health of their communities.