2020 is a milestone year for several EMS associations and seminal events. In this special series, EMS World celebrates the anniversaries of notable institutions with a look back to their founding and their development through the years.
The 20th anniversary of any organization is a significant milestone. For the law firm of Page, Wolfberg & Wirth (PWW), which is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, it is a time to celebrate the rewarding work it has been doing within EMS.
Founding partners Jim Page, Doug Wolfberg and Steve Wirth, started the Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania law firm on January 20, 2000 as the first in the country focusing exclusively on EMS law. All three had extensive experience in EMS giving them unique insights into the issues affecting the industry.
“We jokingly say we had real EMS jobs before we went to law school,” says Wirth. “We saw the need for the specialization in what we had created—EMS law—as most law firms did not understand the unique business and legal challenges faced by EMS agencies.”
Wolfberg and Wirth were the original founders. Wolfberg became an EMT at age 16 and worked in volunteer and paid systems over the decades. He also served as an EMS educator and instructor for many years. Wirth also started in his teens and worked in nearly every facet of EMS—as first responder, firefighter, EMT, paramedic (one of central Pennsylvania’s first), flight paramedic, EMS instructor, fire officer and EMS executive.
Page began his fire service career in the Los Angeles County Fire Department in 1957. He served as technical consultant and writer for the “Emergency!” television series. In 1973, he became chief of EMS for the state of North Carolina. Later, he was executive director of the non-profit Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation. In 1979, he and Keith Griffiths founded Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS).
“Jim, Steve and I were friends and attorneys who had worked in EMS,” says Wolfberg. “During a conference in 1999, we discussed the need for a national law firm that focused on EMS issues and knew the industry from the inside out. We would be a firm that EMS agencies could turn to knowing the attorneys had walked in their shoes, been in the field and understood the issues.”
Since its founding, PWW has been a legal and educational resource for a wide range of EMS and public safety agencies, ambulance services, fire departments, billing companies, hospitals, local governments, and others providing pre-hospital care throughout the United States.
Only four years after helping launch the firm, Page passed away unexpectedly. The firm still bears his name and honors his legacy.
“We're very grateful for the role that we've been able to play in the industry,” says Wolfberg. “When we have these milestones and anniversaries, it's natural to think about Jim and the role he played in our firm and in our lives as well.”
Wirth agrees. “Jim was considered a founding father of modern day EMS. He truly had more influence in EMS than just about anybody. I think we tried to hold true to the values that he set for us in the beginning and for his entire career: honesty, integrity, and always doing what’s right—especially if it involves patient care.”
For PWW, the past 20 years have been filled with innovation and change including the creation of PWW Media and the National Academy of Ambulance Compliance (NAAC). PWW Media provides innovative compliance solutions for the EMS industry and runs one of the most popular ambulance revenue cycle and compliance conferences in the country: abc360. NAAC is a national organization providing education and certifications that address all facets of the ambulance revenue cycle.
The firm provides a full range of professional services:
Revenue cycle performance
Business and transactional issues
HIPAA privacy and security
Mobile integrated healthcare
Education and training
It has also developed innovative products such as the Ambulance Service Guide to HIPAA Compliance, HIPAA TV 2.0 video training, the Ambulance Service Compliance Program Tool Kit, the abc360 Revenue Cycle Guide and more.
Wolfberg notes that one of the firm’s biggest accomplishments has been simplifying complex issues for EMS agencies.
“They deal in a complicated world of regulatory oversight,” he says. “Through our education and publications, we have been focused on making those complex things understandable so agencies can easily understand what their obligations are and how to comply with them.”
Wolfberg and Wirth point to the abc360 conference as another major accomplishment in its history. abc360 is one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive educational events for ambulance industry billing, coding and compliance professionals. This annual conference, which also includes the PWW Executive Institute—known as “XI”—provides valuable content for EMS leaders, executives, managers, privacy officers and EMS practitioners.
“We started the conference because there was a gap in education on regulatory compliance, reimbursement and revenue cycle management,” says Wirth. “There was a big need in how ambulance services could maximize reimbursement for their services without leaving money on the table and to do it in a legally compliant way.”
Looking ahead, the firm hopes to expand its educational offerings and explore collaborations with other national organizations and entities.
“We hope to strategically align ourselves with other groups to expand the offerings we provide to the industry and draw on more expertise,” says Wolfberg. “The next 20 years will bring more innovation in the types of content and services that we provide. We're going to help agencies transition from straight EMS agencies more into the mobile healthcare realm. We also want to help systems become more cost-effective and efficient.”
Wirth expects to see monumental change in EMS.
“You’ll see a shifting of the payment models,” he says. “We will have more community-based EMS which will lead to a lot of challenges as well as new laws and interpretations of the laws and regulations. There will also be a renewed focus on the people in the organizations: the EMTs and the medics, many of whom are not paid commensurate with the value of the job that they do for our society. As long as we continue to figure out a way to solve the many unique problems faced by EMS, we will be successful in the next 20 years.”
Reflecting on those first two decades, Wirth says the word ‘gratitude’ immediately comes to mind.
“We’re grateful for our wonderful, dedicated staff and our clients’ confidence in us,” he says. “We’re not a stuffy ‘traditional’ law firm. We consider ourselves pragmatic lawyers who really enjoy what we do. We are gratified to be able to practice law with the interest of the EMS provider in mind, always focusing on the ultimate customer: the patient. Not many law firm partnerships survive 20 years, but ours has, and that is a testament to the mutual respect everyone in the firm has for each other.”
Wolfberg also uses the word ‘grateful’ as he looks back, adding that it’s a privilege to be wholly embraced by the EMS industry.
“It’s also a privilege to be relied upon as a valuable source for information and advice,” he says. “We thank everyone who has supported us, attended our conferences, used us for legal or consulting services or have taken one of our classes. It's a privilege to be able to do what we love and in an industry that we've been in all of our lives.”
Daniel Casciato is a freelance writer and social media consultant from Pittsburgh, Penn. He makes his living writing about health, law, social media, and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @danielcasciato.