Access to outpatient services in rural communities changes after hospital closure

Katherine E.M. Miller, Kyle L. Miller, Kathleen Knocke, George H. Pink, G. Mark Holmes, Brystana G. Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Between January 2005 and July 2020, 171 rural hospitals closed across the United States. Little is known about the extent that other providers step in to fill the potential reduction in access from a rural hospital closure. The objective of this analysis is to evaluate the trends of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) in rural areas prior to and following hospital closure. Data Sources/Study Setting: We used publicly available data from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Provider of Services files, Cecil G. Sheps Center rural hospital closures list, and Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates. Study Design: We described the trends over time in the number of hospitals, hospital closures, FQHC sites, and RHCs in rural and urban ZIP codes, 2006–2018. We used two-way fixed effects and pooled generalized linear models with a logit link to estimate the probabilities of having any RHC and any FQHC within 10 straight-line miles. Data Collection/Extraction Methods: Not applicable. Principal Findings: Compared to hospitals that never closed, the predicted probability of having any FQHC within 10 miles increased post closure by 5.95 and 11.57 percentage points at 1 year and 5 years, respectively (p < 0.05). The predicted probability of having any RHC within 10 miles was not significantly different following rural hospital closure. A percentage point increase in poverty rate was associated with a 1.98 and a 1.29 percentage point increase in probabilities of having an FQHC or RHC, respectively (p < 0.001). Conclusions: In areas previously served by a rural hospital, there is a higher probability of new FQHC service-delivery sites post closure. This suggests that some of the potential reductions in access to essential preventive and diagnostic services may be filled by FQHCs. However, many rural communities may have a persistent unmet need for preventive and therapeutic care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)788-801
Number of pages14
JournalHealth services research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • barriers to access
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers
  • hospital closures
  • rural
  • Rural Health Clinics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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