AAHA! Why an AAHA Accredited Hospital is Important for Your Pet
By: Maggie McCourt, DVM
AAHA Accredited…what does that even mean? AAHA stands for the American Animal Hospital Association. AAHA is the only veterinary hospital association in America that provides accreditation to companion animal hospitals. The accreditation process for veterinary hospitals is voluntary, that means that a veterinary clinic has to want to become AAHA accredited. Contrast this with human hospitals where a similar accreditation is mandatory. The World Health Organization performed a study of human hospitals. They proved that hospitals that utilized standardized protocols and checklists for their patients had a lower incidence of surgical complications and death under anesthesia. Why wouldn’t you want this same standard for animals?
Only 15% of animal hospitals in the United States are AAHA accredited. AAHA has outlined specific protocols, checklists, and guidelines that every accredited hospital must abide by. These protocols, checklists, and guidelines describe the way to practice medicine at the highest level. To become an AAHA accredited hospital, a complete practice audit is performed by the association to evaluate everything from the practice’s medical record keeping to surgery protocols to ensure that the hospital is following these AAHA guidelines and are, in fact, practicing the highest quality of medicine. Take surgeries for example; in an AAHA accredited hospital, there are specific protocols and checklists that are utilized for each patient undergoing surgery. By utilizing these checklists and protocols, it minimizes the odds that things are not missed and patients are treated with the highest level of care.
AAHA accreditation also ensures that these accredited hospitals are using the most up-to-date technology and requires that veterinarians that work at accredited hospitals stay up-to-date with the latest developments in veterinary medicine through continuing education. The state of Virginia requires 15 hours of continuing education to maintain veterinary licensure per year. AAHA requires veterinarians that work at accredited hospitals to have over 50 hours of continuing education per year!
AAHA is continuously updating their standards to meet the changes and updates in veterinary medicine. To stay accredited, a veterinary hospital must pass an audit every three years to show that the practice has updated their practice protocols to meet these changes as well. Some examples of practices that AAHA accredited hospitals are required to use that some non-accredited hospitals might not have include:
• An isolation unit for contagious patients to ensure the safety of other patients in the hospital
• Dental X-Ray to better be able to identify and treat dental disease since 90% of dental disease is hidden below the gums
• An oxygen delivery system for critical patients that cannot breathe
So why did we at MVP decide we wanted to become AAHA accredited?
1. Because we care about your pets.
2. Because we care about practicing the highest level of veterinary medicine.
3. Because we wanted to give our clients a tangible way to know that they can trust that we are practicing at the highest level of medicine.
4. Because we love what we do.
5. Because we feel that our pets are an important part of the family and if accreditation is required for human hospitals than it is just as important for veterinary hospitals.
If I was not a veterinarian, I would still only take my animals to an AAHA accredited hospital because it would give me peace of mind that my pet was being taken care of at the highest level of care. Owners can feel confident that their pets are being well taken care of at an AAHA accredited hospital.