By Terri Johnson, AAHA Practice Accreditation
Patient care is the core of what veterinary practices do everyday. Meeting the needs of patients is almost as varied and diverse as the number of species in the world. The AAHA patient care standards cover everything from physical examinations and how fluids are maintained to what kind of bedding and environments patients are housed in. Patient care is the ultimate reason a practice exists and a determining factor in how clients choose a practice.
Accreditation through AAHA is a good way to ensure that a veterinary practice is following the highest standards of excellence in patient care. Norwalk Veterinary Medical Center in Norwalk, OH, was recently awarded the 2011 AAHA-Accredited Practice of the Year Award. Norwalk Veterinary Medical Center received this award by providing high-level veterinary care and for embracing the philosophy that all team members, medical and support personnel alike, play a vital role in caring for patients.
It takes a team to provide excellent patient care. AAHA-accredited practices realize that client service and patient care encompass everything from the moment you walk into the front door until you take your pet home. Nancy Hendrikson, hospital administrator with Norwalk Veterinary Medical Center, believes that good patient care begins with establishing a great relationship with the pet’s family. "To help new clients feel as special and comfortable as possible, we make sure that the first person they speak with on the phone is the first person who greets them and becomes their core team member." That dedicated team member is in charge of helping clients with everything from completing paper work to introducing them to the technician, doctor and other team members they will be interacting with. That experience doesn’t end with the examination. "At the end of the visit, the dedicated team member helps the client through the checkout process, answering any questions she has."
A knowledgeable and well-trained staff covers all aspects of patient care. "Maintaining the standards of accreditation is paramount to the mission of our practice," Hendrikson says. "The AAHA standards, including our protocols, help us provide uniform and consistent procedures for every patient every time and improve patient safety and wellness. It increases our quality of care and our commitment to our clients and their pets. It helps us work together as a team to realize these goals and provide excellent patient care."
AAHA standards are continually updated to help accredited practices stay on the forefront of veterinary medicine and to adopt the most advanced business practices. Accredited practices are evaluated every 3 years to ensure they’re upholding the standards.
Pet owners want to know that their pets are receiving the highest quality care from well-trained, professional veterinary practice teams. Henrikson says, "Our practice demonstrates a commitment to continuing education and training by providing frequent practice team training activities."
Not all veterinary practices are accredited. Only 15% of the practices in the United States and Canada are AAHA-accredited. The process of preparing for the evaluation takes a true team effort. "It increases our team motivation by giving us a sense of pride in our accomplishments and achievements. The team has known expectations and goals, which sets a standard of quality performance. We feel fulfilled knowing we are dedicated to working together to give the best quality of care to our clients and their pets," Hendrikson says.
She believes that AAHA accreditation makes a difference to their clients. "When they see the AAHA-accredited hospital logo on our website and our exterior sign and entrance, they know, even before they enter the building, that we are different. There is peace of mind in the AAHA brand that carries with it the knowledge that we have made a commitment to excellence and to voluntarily be evaluated and held accountable and achieved accreditation. This gives clients the confidence to know they have made a superior, trusted choice for their pet that will provide the highest quality of care."