This study estimates changes in outpatient care as a
source of revenue for rural hospitals. It uses 2011-2019
data from the Healthcare Cost Report Information System
to analyze trends in the percent of patient revenue
coming from outpatient care.
For the average hospital in our sample of 1,866 rural
hospitals, the percent of revenue coming from outpatient
services increased from 66.5% in 2011 to 74.2% in 2019.
Furthermore, total outpatient revenue for the average
rural hospital increased by 56.4% from 2011-2019, after
inflation adjustment. Conversely, total inpatient revenue
for the average rural hospital only increased by 9.3%
from 2011-2019, after inflation adjustment.
Our findings suggest that many rural hospitals now
receive most of their revenue from outpatient sources.
Future payment mechanisms recognizing the importance of
outpatient services may be more effective in sustaining
financial viability in rural hospitals compared to
payment models based on inpatient criteria.