AAHA to change membership structure

Nonaccredited veterinary hospitals must decide if they wish to become accredited or not

The 1,516 nonaccredited veterinary hospitals that are part of the American Animal Hospital Association have until June 30, 2018, to declare their intent to become accredited—or drop out.

AAHA determined that having two membership models—AAHA-member hospitals and AAHA-accredited hospitals—diluted the Lakewood, Colo., organization’s brand.

“For years, we have included a separate membership category that has allowed hospital membership for practices that are not accredited,” said CEO Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, Dipl. ABVP.

The two-tier membership approach “created confusion in the marketplace,” he said.

“Over time we came to realize that we could not be everything to everyone,” Dr. Cavanaugh said. “We need to hold true to our priorities.”

AAHA’s board of directors views accreditation as the foundation of what the organization does.

Past president Nancy Soares, VMD, acknowledged that “countless nonaccredited hospitals [practice] excellent medicine.”

She urged nonaccredited member hospitals to work toward accreditation. Those hospitals have until July 1 to enter an agreement with AAHA to become accredited or to convert to individual veterinarian memberships through their owners or medical directors.

Some hospitals may not want to undergo the rigorous and time-consuming accreditation process, AAHA spokeswoman Katherine Wessels said.

Hospitals often take three to six months to prepare for an accreditation evaluation. AAHA practice consultants look at some 900 standards, ranging from patient care to medical recordkeeping.

The annual membership fee for accredited practices is $1,070.

“AAHA accreditation is valued by pet owners,” Wessels said. “Accredited hospitals can use their accreditation as a differentiating factor to distinguish themselves from the hospital down the street when a pet owner is searching for a new hospital.”

Wessels cited research by Trone Brand Energy, which found that 81 percent of pet owners would choose an AAHAaccredited hospital over a nonaccredited one and that 51 percent of pet owners would drive farther to get to an accredited hospital.

“From our standpoint, it makes sense that all of our nonaccredited hospital members would want to pursue accreditation,” Wessels said. “Accreditation brings the whole practice team together and unifies all hospital staff.”

Veterinary practices interested in pursuing accreditation can schedule a complimentary early assessment from an AAHA practice consultant.

Originally published in the December 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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