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Michigan Health Center Leader Gets the Spotlight for Reducing Unnecessary ER Visits

Patty Wagenhofer-Rucker

Patty Wagenhofer-Rucker wasn’t looking for any special recognition when she began her work as Integrated Health Director at Genesee Community Health Center in Flint, MI, but that’s what happened anyway.   Her work at the health center has reduced unnecessary hospital emergency room visits by 80 percent in the past three years, which caught the notice of Crain’s Detroit Business.  The publication cited her among its Health Care Heroes in 2017 in the category of corporate achievement.   Wagenhofer-Rucker’s profile notes that the health center professional, who has a master’s degree in social work, launched a project at the center that focused on patient emergency visits.

She explained to Crain’s reporter Tyler Clifford how the project works:  “If they are our patient, we assign a recovery coach or social worker to find them and bring them in for services within seven days.  We continue to be engaged with them to provide them the support they need.  We address social determinants such as housing, money for utilities, access to food, access to clean water and basic needs, we support them and we have a primary care clinic that provides the care they need.”

The model has since been picked up by health centers across the Midwest, according to Wagenhofer-Rucker.  And what makes Genesee’s efforts so successful? We reached out to her by telephone to find out.  “I work at a fantastic health center that does amazing things every day,” Wagenhofer-Rucker explained.  “We have 14 health coaches, 9 practitioners,  and we work as a team to walk beside our patients every day.  We address the social determinants of health and that’s how you get outcomes, that is how you get engaged.”