Rural Health Clinics

Document Type

Policy Brief

Publication Date



MRHRC, Rural Health Clinics, EHR, electronic health record, implementation


Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) are a vital source of primary care services with more than 4,000 clinics serving rural communities. Relatively little is known about the extent to which RHCs have adopted and are using electronic health records (EHRs) to support clinical services. Because EHR adoption is an essential element for inclusion in accountable care organizations, patient centered medical homes, and health plan provider networks offered on state and national health insurance marketplaces, EHR implementation will be increasingly important to RHCs if they are to remain competitive participants in the evolving healthcare market. This study demonstrates that RHCs are approaching parity with other physician practices in terms EHR adoption and use, however, some RHCs, such as provider-based clinics, report lower rates of EHR adoption than other clinics. Key Findings: Nearly 72 percent of Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) have an operational electronic health record (EHR), with 63 percent indicating use by 90 percent or more of their staff. Slightly over 17 percent of RHCs without an EHR plan to implement one within six months, and 27 percent plan to do so within seven to twelve months. Common barriers to EHR implementation include acquisition and maintenance costs (72 percent), lack of capital (51 percent), and concerns about productivity and income loss during implementation (45 percent). RHCs continue to lag on some meaningful use measures, but perform well on measures related to clinical care and patient management. With Regional Extension Centers facing the loss of federal funding it is important to identify additional resources to assist RHCs in maximizing EHR adoption and use.


Policy Brief No. 58

Funding Organization

Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Grant Number




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