National Study of Rural Health Clinics

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project completed:
March 2002
Dramatic growth in the Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) program has raised important policy questions about the cost of this program and the role that RHCs perform in expanding access to primary care services in rural underserved areas. This study provides an updated comprehensive picture of the RHC program which will be disseminated in a chartbook format. The study addresses the following questions:
  • Where are RHCs located relative to the underservice problems and access needs of rural areas?
  • To what extent are RHCs providing care to uninsured, underinsured and other vulnerable populations?
  • To what extent are RHCs participating in network building activities to expand access and service capacity?
  • How do provider-based and independent RHCs compare in terms of staffing levels and patterns, services provided, populations served, payer mix, hours of operation, and financial performance?
  • How have RHCs been affected by the growth in rural managed care plans, both commercial and public?
  • To what extent are RHCs participating in the training of health professions students?
The data sources for this study include: a mailed survey of a random sample of 1,600 RHCs stratified by type (independent vs. provider-based) and age, the provider of services component of the HCFA Online Survey Credentialing and Reporting (OSCAR) files, the Area Resource File (ARF), and the Rural-Urban Commuting Area (RUCA) Codes, Version 1.1 ZIP Code Approximation file.


  • The Characteristics and Roles of Rural Health Clinics in the United States: A Chartbook
    Maine Rural Health Research Center
    Date: 01/2003
    This chartbook reports on a rural health clinics (RHCs) survey. Information was collected on many topics, including their characteristics/operations; their location relative to the underservice problems/rural access needs; their safety net functions; staffing, recruitment, and financial issues; and involvement in training healthcare professionals.