For rural area residents, the healthcare options can be limited. But if you take a closer look, you’ll find that rural health clinics offer an appealing alternative to traditional hospital-based healthcare. Let’s explore the benefits of rural health clinics and why they could be your best choice for healthcare.
I recently went to one in our area and have been pleasantly surprised and grateful I didn’t need to take a long drive for a yearly physical.
What Is A Rural Health Clinic?
A rural health clinic is a clinic located in a rural, medically under-served area in the United States that has a separate reimbursement structure from the standard medical office under the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
You can see if you live in one of these defined areas here.
Advantages of Rural Health Clinics
- Convenience – Easy to get appointments
- Affordability – Insurances accepted
- Personal Care – Fewer people, easier to spend more time with patients.
Rural health clinics are designed to provide basic healthcare services to people living in remote areas with limited access to medical care. These clinics are often staffed by local providers who understand and empathize with the struggles of living in a rural community, making them more likely to provide comprehensive and compassionate care.
Additionally, rural health clinics tend to accept patients regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay, making them a great choice for those without access to traditional healthcare resources.
1. The Convenience of Rural Health Clinics
Rural health clinics are located in and serve communities throughout the United States, often in places where access to other sources of medical care is difficult or impossible. This makes them easily accessible for those living in remote areas who don’t have easy access to hospitals or large medical centers. For us, it’s an hour’s drive to go to a small hospital emergency room.
Furthermore, most rural health clinics offer extended hours, sometimes even on weekends and holidays, making it easier for patients to get the care they need when they need it.
(These weekend hours are not available in our local rural area in the Northeast which is why I want to take a CPR course.)
2. Affordability In Rural Health Care
Rural health clinics typically accept both private insurance and Medicare/Medicaid plans which helps reduce out-of-pocket costs for their patients. Many also offer discounted rates for those without insurance coverage or with limited income, helping to make healthcare more affordable for all patients regardless of their financial situation.
Additionally, since many services are offered onsite at rural health clinics (such as lab tests and X-rays), there may be fewer trips required outside the clinic than would otherwise be required at a larger hospital facility, resulting in further cost savings for patients.
(Again this option of X-rays is not available in our area, we have to drive an hour for them too.)
3. Personalized Care At Rural Clinics
At rural health clinics, patient care tends to be more personalized than what is available at larger hospitals or medical centers due to smaller staff sizes and fewer patients being seen per day. On top of this, many rural health clinic providers are familiar with their local community members and have established relationships with them over the years which can add an extra layer of trust when it comes time for treatment or diagnosis.
This intimate setting allows practitioners to get a better understanding of their patient’s individual needs and provide more tailored treatments that meet their particular requirements.
The goal is always to provide high-quality patient care but doing so in a personal manner sets rural health clinics apart from other types of healthcare facilities. We have found this to be true with our local walk-in clinic. The doctors and practitioners seem to have more time to spend with you.
Disadvantages of Rural Health Clinics
- Shorter office hours
- No x-ray machines or quick blood work results
- Lack of pharmacy nearby if needed
- No medical specialists nearby
Although there are certainly advantages to using a rural health clinic, there are some drawbacks as well. For starters, these clinics may not offer all the same services as larger hospitals or medical centers due to staffing or financial constraints.
This means that if you need emergency care or specialty care such as surgery or cancer treatment, you may need to travel outside your area for additional services. We have to drive an hour away for any specialty doctor or eye doctor.
Recently we learned pregnant women in our rural area have to travel even further. I can’t imagine having to drive 3 hours to have a baby while in labor.
However, we have found in a rural area wait times are never an issue as when we lived in the more densely populated state of Rhode Island.
Back there we had to make appointments way in advance and still be waiting in the waiting area for a much longer amount of time once we had an appointment.
Being Prepared If You Are Unable To Get To Services
We have also learned to have every medicine and medical tool possible around. For example, a blood pressure machine and thermometer as well as cold and flu medicines are always on hand. Some of our friends here are purchasing a defibrillator for emergency use.
Even if we get to the walk-in center for care, it’s an hour’s drive to the pharmacy if you need medicine.
Fortunately, for example, our doctor recommends a sinus rinse for sinus infection before prescribing any medicines. Medicines are a last resort.
Living in a rural area, you do what you can to stay healthy and avoid getting sick or needing medical attention, especially on a weekend. However, one year my father-in-law needed medical attention, and the EMTs and border patrol were right there to help him.
Other times the wardens in our area help people in skiing or snowmobile accidents. But with that said if there is no cell service, help may be limited and take much longer. Always carry supplies with you in case this happens in your rural area.
When it comes down to it, there are many advantages that come with choosing a rural health clinic over other types of healthcare facilities such as larger hospitals or medical centers. From convenience and affordability to personalized care, these unique clinics can provide quality care while still offering an intimate setting that puts people first every step of the way.
We have been very happy with the rural healthcare in our area after moving 3 years ago. It’s hard to change doctors, dentists, and eyecare physicians especially when you had them for 30+ years. But the change was very pleasant for us so far.
With all this said, we have known a few people that had serious medical conditions and had to move away to be closer to the city for care. So of course, it’s something to consider before making your move to a rural area.
I’d love to hear about your experiences when needing rural health care in your rural area.