In the United States, all hospitals that serve people with Medicare must be accredited through an accrediting body, that is, they must undergo regular reviews and quality checks to ensure they meet standards of quality for every aspect of medical care.
You might be surprised to learn that the same is not true for veterinary hospitals. When it comes to pet health care, accreditation is voluntary. In fact, only about 15% of veterinary hospitals (also called clinics or practices) are accredited.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is the only organization that accredits veterinary hospitals — both general and specialty practices — in the United States and Canada.
Practices are evaluated against a pool of more than 900 standards that represent best practices in veterinary care and hospital management. A national taskforce of veterinary professionals created and continually updates the standards to reflect the latest developments and improvements in patient care, surgery, medical records, cleanliness, staff safety, leadership, and a host of other areas essential to excellent patient care.
After applying to become accredited, a veterinary practice usually spends several weeks or months examining and fine-tuning its systems, processes, and protocols (procedures) to be sure every aspect meets AAHA’s standards of quality.
Often the whole practice team becomes involved, which builds collaboration across the entire clinic — an important factor in quality pet care.
When the practice is ready, AAHA sends consultants — trained professionals with veterinary backgrounds — to conduct an on-site evaluation.
Practices are awarded points for each standard they meet, and they must amass a certain score in order to pass the evaluation. Accreditation is by no means guaranteed, and practices that pass evaluations often host parties for staff and clients to celebrate achieving the milestone.
To maintain accredited status, clinics must be re-evaluated every three years. This ensures that every AAHA-accredited practice represents the most current thinking about what constitutes the best health and medical care for pets.
Pet owners can feel reassured about the care their pets receive at AAHA-accredited hospitals. There is a saying among business leaders: Good management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things. Accreditation assures you that your veterinarian does both.
How do you know if a clinic is AAHA accredited?
- Look for the AAHA logo and plaque. They will be proudly displayed on the door and in the lobby.
- Use AAHA’s hospital locator at http://healthypet.com/ to search for a specific hospital or for one near you.
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Volume 3 Issue 2, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.