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AAHA Accreditation

What is AAHA?

Established in 1933 by leaders in the veterinary profession, AAHA is the only exclusive companion animal veterinary association. AAHA is well known for its high standards in veterinary practices and quality pet care and promotes those standards within the veterinary profession and to the public. The Association develops benchmarks of excellence, business practice standards, informative publications and educational programs designed to help companion animal practices thrive. AAHA believes in “Healthy Practices. Healthier Pets.” and is dedicated to raising the bar in veterinary care.

Throughout the Association’s 75 years, its mission has remained the same: provide veterinary professionals with the resources they need to effectively manage their businesses and deliver the best in companion animal care. The AAHA membership philosophy allows every hospital staff member, from veterinarians to receptionists, to benefit from AAHA’s resources through one group membership. Today, AAHA serves approximately 6,000 practice teams in the United States and Canada that are comprised of more than 36,000 individual veterinary care providers. Nearly 3,000 of the total practice teams are accredited.

AAHA developed the Accreditation Program to raise the level of care being provided to companion animals. They also wanted to increase loyalty among veterinary staff members and provide a way for practices to show their excellence to their communities and clients. AAHA, along with a group of veterinary experts, developed the AAHA Standards of Accreditation as benchmarks of excellence. AAHA also developed the evaluation system where practices are regularly evaluated by a Practice Consultant to ensure they meet AAHA’s standards.

Why does AAHA Matter?

In the United States, all hospitals that serve people must be accredited, 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 as 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 task force 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.

Reproduced from Pets Matter Magazine, Volume, 3 Issue 2 (Online).