AAA Annual Conference: Report from Day One

The At the American Ambulance Association’s annual conference and trade show are being held Nov. 13-15 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AAA’s conference is a place for key leaders in EMS to connect, discuss challenges, and learn from others’ experiences.

Keynote: Stephen M.R. Covey

Stephen M.R. Covey set the tone on Monday morning with a powerful  annual conference in Las Vegas, Nev. Author of The Speed of Trust and former CEO of the Covey Leadership Center, Covey spoke to the AAA attendees about the importance of trust in everything we do.

He was quick to point out that EMS is in an incredibly unique position as a field that requires incredibly high levels of trust. “Your whole world in EMS is based on trust,” he reminded the group.

Covey pushed this idea further by suggesting that not only is trust about the relationship with your customers and patients, but it’s also key to establish with our crew members, teammates, direct reports, and other members of the organization. Covey then walked the group through “Three Big Ideas” about the role of trust in an organization and how to cultivate it:

  1. Trust is financial, not social. It’s an economic driver, not just an ideal to aspire to.
  2. Trust is the number one leadership skill needed today.
  3. Trust is learnable.

Covey went on to suggest that these elements of trust are key to recruiting and retaining productive, engaged team members. His basic equation: A decrease in trust equates to a decrease in speed and an increase of cost. In an industry where every second matters, this kind of relationship is worth every effort utilized to establish it.

HIPAA Violations and Subpoenas

“The first rule of HIPAA is that we don’t talk about patients. The second rule of HIPAA compliance is that we don’t talk about patients.” Brian Werfel, Esq. began his session with this statement, a playful spin on the infamous expression from the film Fight Club. In doing so, he underscored the importance of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the protection of patient health information (PHI).

Werfel presented the audience with a practical guide to HIPAA and the ins and outs of subpoenas. He started by unpacking all of the terminology related to the topic, and then reviewed several case studies – all of which are real and happened to actual AAA members. The audience utilized the information he had provided, along with their own understanding, to determine if there was or wasn’t a HIPAA breach. 

Additional points that Brian touched upon included use of personal devices (phones, etc.) while on duty, and the relationship that EMS has with the media.  Werfel encouraged every agency leader in the room to consider implementing basic media training for their crews. He added, “There are no first amendment protections for your disclosure of PHI.”

Asset Management Simulcast

JEMS Editorial Board Member Jonathan Washko led a panel discussion at AAA yesterday on the topic of Asset Management.  The panel included of Michael Baker, EMS Director with Tulsa Fire; Dr. Jim Augustine, U.S. Acute Care Solutions and Sean Tyler, President & CEO of Fallon Ambulance. 

Left to Right: Michael Baker (EMS Chief, Tulsa Fire), Sean Tyler (President & COO, Fallon Ambulance Service), Jim Augustine, MD (U.S. Acute Care Solutions) and Jonathan Washko (Northwell Health).

The panel discussion addressed the benefits of implementing leading-edge technology solutions to manage assets, to improve quality of care and the bottom line. With experts from private ambulance companies and public/municipal EMS agencies, as well as a noted medical expert, the panel, which was simultaneously aired live over the web, aimed to provide peer-to-peer advice and allowed the panelists to share how they changed the game for their organizations by embracing new technology to manage assets. 

If you weren’t able to attend either online or in person – don’t worry! You can now watch the webcast on demand via

How to Prepare to Report Costs to the Federal Government

As part of the Hot Topics track, Wayne Jurecki (Bell AMbulance), Asbel Montes (Acadian Ambulance), and policy expert Kathy Lester (Lester Health Law) discussed current movements in the U.S. House of Representatives to move the ambulance industry toward a cost reporting requirement. The implications of this potential legislation will mean significant change for many agencies and companies throughout the country. 

Kathy Lester, Asbel Montes and Wayne Jurecki discuss how EMS leaders can prepare for new federal cost reporting requirements.

Lester, Montes and Jurecki focused on specific, concrete ways that leaders can begin preparing for this new requirement. They reviewed all of the pending legislation, which you can learn more about in our most recent Legislation Update from the AAA.  

“We’re an agile industry,” says Wayne Jurecki. “We can go through all of these things. The AAA is there to help with these changes.” All three panelists reminded attendees that they can visit for more information about how they can begin preparing for these major changes.  

What can leaders do now?

Review the Payment Reform section on the AAA website. It contains various materials and videos that go over some the datasets you will need to be focusing on within your organization. Additional action points for leaders:

  • Start your research now!
  • Talk to your vendors
  • Look at your payroll systems, payable systems and proprietary systems: are they collecting the data that needs to be collected?
  • Review your cost and reimbursement processes

In addition to these resources, AAA has a task force that includes reps from a variety of services all over the country. AAA will be turning to them help figure out wha the best educational tools will be for organizations and agencies. “We’ve got a lot of ambulance services in the country that are still on paper,” noted Lester. “We’re going to try to figure out how to help them.”

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Sarah joined JEMS in 2017, where she oversees the development of content for and EMS Insider. She previously managed the end-to-end publication process for several high-profile scientific publications. Sarah is trained as a project manager and Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and she has led projects in the areas of process analysis and optimization, change management and continuous improvement. She has a bachelor's degree in writing from the University of San Francisco and a master's degree in literature from the University of California, San Diego.

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