Accreditation important for vets

We were incredibly proud to learn that we have been selected as finalists for the 2014 American Animal Hospital Association Accredited Veterinary Practice of the Year. This award is presented to one clinic in the US and Canada at the annual AAHA conference.

When our clinic became AAHA accredited, we realized many pet owners had no idea how standards for veterinary care and service were established and enforced.

Veterinarians in our area are regulated by the College of Veterinarians of Ontario, which regulates and licenses veterinarians, as well as handling complaints against, and discipline of, its members. The CVO sets the minimum standards of practice and facilities for veterinarians in Ontario.

Until very recently, veterinarians were prohibited by the CVO from advertising any services above and beyond the minimum standards. For example, veterinarians are not required to be equipped for dental X-rays. Until the recent changes, a vet clinic could not advertise that they offered this service.

This change was timed with the end of another long-standing CVO regulation prohibiting veterinarians from advertising their prices. The rationale was that once vets could advertise their prices, those who offered higher-priced services should be able to explain why. A clinic can now advertise how much they charge to spay a dog; what they may or may not say is whether their service exceeds minimum standards of care.

Minimum standards do not require anesthesia monitoring devices beyond a stethoscope and a thermometer. However, many clinics will have the same sophisticated monitoring seen in human hospitals, continuously measuring blood pressure, ECG, oxygen saturation, carbon dioxide levels and more. This equipment is proven to reduce morbidity and mortality but it’s far from inexpensive, and will increase the cost of surgery. The CVO recognized that pet owners need to understand the differences in what they are paying for.

Many veterinary practice owners feel the standard of care for every patient should go well beyond minimum standards. Many of these vets turn to the American Animal Hospital Association. Founded in 1933 with the goal of promoting the highest standards of veterinary care, AAHA offers tremendous resources to members including continuing education, guidelines for best current practices and significantly, their own program of accreditation.

AAHA is the only accrediting body for veterinary facilities in the US and Canada. Any clinic can join AAHA, but must undergo a rigorous evaluation process to ensure they meet more than 900 AAHA Standards of Accreditation.

To maintain accredited status, hospitals undergo comprehensive on-site evaluations every three years, which ensures hospitals are compliant. Presently about 3,200 Canadian and US veterinary clinics are AAHA accredited (approximately 15 per cent of US and seven per cent of Canadian clinics).

The CVO takes its mandate of protecting the public interest in matters regarding the veterinary profession very seriously. The standards required by them have to be applied across the entire province, covering numerous and varied demographics, from downtown Toronto to remote northern Ontario. They must be, and are, thoughtful and realistic. In a field as rapidly progressing as veterinary medicine, we are fortunate to have an organization like AAHA to constantly seek out the highest standards of care and provide vets with the resources to achieve them.

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