Rural Hospital-Health Clinic Integration
The AHA Task Force on Ensuring Access in Vulnerable Communities examined ways in which the access to and delivery of care could be improved. This strategy – focused on cooperation and collaboration through integration of rural hospitals and health clinics – is a way for vulnerable rural areas to better meet community need and stabilize and expand services as those needs change. The specific type of relationship formed between a rural hospital and health clinic, such as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Rural Health Clinic or Community Health Clinic, will vary based on the needs of the hospital, health clinic and community. However, integration may take the following forms:
- Contractual collaborations, such as referral and co-location arrangements, or an agreement for the purchase of clinical and/or administrative services between a rural hospital and health clinic;
- Formation of a consortium or network that allows for sharing of clinical and administrative functions, as well as facilitate the continuum of care; or
- Corporate integration (i.e., merging the rural hospital into the health clinic).
Regardless of the level of integration chosen, this strategy has the potential to significantly improve access to health care services in vulnerable communities.