According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), rural health clinics were established in 1977 as a method of providing healthcare access to Medicare patients in rural areas of the U.S. This includes access to physicians as well as other healthcare professionals, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical psychologists, and more. Definitive Healthcare tracks over 4,600 rural health clinics, more than 4,300 of which are currently active. These facilities focus on providing both primary care as well as preventative care to Medicare patients across the rural U.S.
In order to qualify as a rural health clinic, facilities must meet specific criteria, including:
- Location in a non-urbanized area as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau
- Employ at least one nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant
- Have a nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, or nurse-midwife working at least half the time a clinic is open
- Offer routine diagnostic services and more
Of the rural health clinics listed below, 44 percent reported belonging to a health system. This could be advantageous, with health systems offering greater resources for clinics to provide diagnostic and other laboratory services. Health system membership could also aid in securing staffing, either through the health system itself or through negotiations with a staffing company. Interestingly, the number of visits reported by rural health clinics did not necessarily correlate to total costs. London Women’s Care ranked 21st for total number of visits, but had higher total costs than 8 of the top 10 clinics. Higher costs could be attributed to a variety of factors, including health system membership, location, patient demographics, and more.