Making Advocacy Accessible & Actionable

Emergency sign in front of a hospital April 24, 2024 By: Jemilah Senter

Learn from Cathey Wise, executive director of the Emergency Department Practice Management Association, and how she has advanced the advocacy efforts of the organization and its members.

Imagine the anxiety and uncertainty of a sudden trip to the emergency department—a universal experience that touches nearly every individual at some point, whether personally or through someone they know. It’s an unfortunate scenario that underscores the critical importance of accessible, quality emergency care and the complex ecosystem that supports it. In the intricate world of healthcare, where policy and practice intersect, advocacy emerges as a beacon of change.

At the helm of navigating and advocating for improvements within this complicated ecosystem is Cathey Wise, CAE, executive director of the Emergency Department Practice Management Association. Her journey and leadership illuminate the power of advocacy in shaping policies that directly impact the emergency care millions depend on.

EDPMA: Advocating for the Business of Emergency Medicine

EDPMA is the nation’s only professional trade association focused on the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective care in the emergency department. EDPMA’s membership includes emergency medicine physician groups of all sizes and ownership models, as well as billing, coding, and other professional support organizations that assist healthcare providers in our nation’s emergency departments.

EDPMA provides its members with access to decision makers and resources to ensure effective operations of emergency departments, monitor federal and state legislative and regulatory activity, educate on best practices, and share important updates and information on the key issues and services affecting the business of emergency medicine.

Since February 2022, when Wise took over as its leader, EDPMA has continued its 26-year history of championing advocacy efforts for the business aspects of emergency medicine. Wise articulates what’s at the heart of the association’s mission: “Our members either directly serve or support 60 percent of all ER visits in the country. Each member organization maintains a laser-like focus on ensuring the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective care in the emergency department.” This mission is crucial to ensuring that emergency departments across the country can continue to provide vital services.

Wise’s approach to advocacy is deeply rooted in making complex issues accessible to both policymakers and association members. But it’s not easy.

Overcoming Advocacy Challenges With the No Surprises Act

A key component of Wise’s leadership involves navigating the legislative landscape to advocate for fair practices in emergency medicine, recently addressing the challenges posed by the No Surprises Act. This legislation, aimed at protecting patients from unexpected medical bills for out-of-network services in emergency department visits represents a significant shift in healthcare billing practices. And while everyone supports keeping patients out of payment disputes, the act’s implementation has not been without challenges for emergency medicine providers.

To tackle these challenges head-on, Wise helped spearhead the No Surprises Act Implementation Tactical Task Force to ensure that the legislation achieves its intended goal of protecting patients while also ensuring fair compensation for emergency medicine services. She explains, “This task force is comprised of member experts, which admittedly I am not, and three work groups that really do the heavy lifting on deciphering the regulatory issues, creating recommendations, and proposing viable solutions to fix those problems.” Through this initiative, Wise demonstrated a keen understanding of the importance of unpacking the complexities of the legislation in ways that were easily digestible and actionable.

Empowering Members To Advocate Through Engagement, Education, and Collaboration

Wise believes in making advocacy accessible to all EDPMA members, empowering them to engage with policymakers. By expanding lobby days, doubling down on educating members on how to lobby and advocate, leveraging technology, and providing greater access to tools that enable advocacy and outreach, she has made great strides in demystifying the advocacy process. “We added pages on our website with fact sheets, infographics, and other resources, but we also included a lobby day interest list to collect contact information on who is interested in advocacy,” Wise stated, highlighting these effective efforts that helped increase member participation in advocacy. EDPMA also offers collaborative documents that highlight state legislative and regulatory issues we are following to allow its members to contribute what they are experiencing in their states.

Recognizing the power of data in shaping policy, Wise helps prioritize the collection and dissemination of data to support EDPMA’s advocacy efforts. By marrying anecdotal evidence with hard data, EDPMA has enabled its members to hold meaningful and persuasive discussions with policymakers, ensuring that the real-world impacts of legislation are understood and considered. “We’ve seen our data sets being referred to in congressional hearings, and we’re also seeing that our data sets are now being picked up by the media as a citation in their stories.” This strategic use of data has enhanced EDPMA’s credibility and amplified its voice and the voices of its members in the legislative arena.

At the core of Wise’s leadership philosophy is the recognition that success in advocacy is a collective endeavor. Her ability to foster collaboration among EDPMA’s leaders, members, and external partners has been instrumental in advancing the association’s advocacy goals.

Another new tool that Wise implemented in 2023 is an online community platform for members, EDPMA EMPowered. Through EMPowered, members can participate in various groups such as the Federal Health Policy and State Regulatory & Insurance committees to share updates, information, and determine the best strategies to elevate advocacy efforts on key issues. Wise’s humility, coupled with her strategic acumen, has created an environment where diverse perspectives are valued and innovative solutions are pursued.

Looking Ahead With Strategic Vision

Wise’s vision extends beyond immediate advocacy wins. She is deeply invested in nurturing the next generation of leaders within EDPMA. The EMerging Leaders Academy is a prime example of this commitment, designed to equip early- to mid-career professionals with the knowledge and skills to navigate the complexities of emergency medicine advocacy.

Wise’s plans for EDPMA include continuing to evolve the association’s advocacy efforts and nurturing the next generation of leaders. She emphasizes the importance of mentorship and collaboration in achieving these goals. “Being very intentional in mentorship-program design can go a long way toward building the next generation of subject matter experts who are passionate and well-informed advocates.”

Final Thoughts

Through Cathey Wise’s visionary leadership, EDPMA has strengthened its position as a powerful advocate for the emergency medicine community. Her journey and the strategic initiatives she has championed serve as a testament to the significant impact that dedicated advocacy can have on healthcare policy and practice.

“Bringing together collective voices to further a collaborative, member-focused advocacy agenda underpins a thriving trade association—making advocacy accessible to both veteran and new advocates in a safe space so that policymakers learn firsthand about solutions to protect our healthcare safety net.”

For association professionals and beyond, Wise’s work exemplifies how passion, strategy, and collaboration can help an entire industry navigate the complexities of advocacy to make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions.


Jemilah Senter

Jemilah Senter is vice chair, ASAE Advocacy Council and is an experienced marketing and communications executive with over 25 years of experience, specializing in the full spectrum of initiatives that advance the missions of associations and nonprofits.