What is an RHC?

A Rural Health Clinic, abbreviated as RHC, is a medical clinic that is located in a rural, underserved area designated as a shortage area for outpatient primary care services and basic laboratory services. The RHC program is intended to increase access to these primary care services for patients in rural communities. RHCs can be public, nonprofit, or for-profit healthcare facilities.

RHCs are required to use a team approach of physicians working with non-physician providers to provide services and must be staffed at least 50% of the time with a Nurse Practitioner (NP), Physician Assistant (PA), or Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). Each provider must meet minimum annual productivity standards: 4,200 visits per full-time equivalent (FTE) physician or 2,100 visits per full-time equivalent (FTE) mid-level providers (NP, PA, and CNM).

RHCs have certain minimum requirements for patient care services they must offer. They must perform all of the following during routine on-site lab services such as blood sugar testing, hemoglobin or hematocrit, stick or tablet chemical urine examination or both, occult blood stool specimen examination, pregnancy testing, and primary culturing to send to a certified lab.

An RHC is required to maintain patient records and an updated policy and procedure manual. This manual is one of the tools that helps ensure the RHC stays in full compliance with applicable State and Federal laws. An RHC cannot be a rehabilitation agency or a facility primarily for the care and treatment of mental diseases and meets all other requirements of 42 CFR 405 and 491. They must also conduct an annual quality assessment and improvement program to improve the performance of the clinic operations through the identification of important aspects in care that affects the delivery of care within the scope of services offered. This is the majority or high-level summary of requirements for the RHC status.