With only about 12 to 15 percent of veterinary practices in the U.S. and Canada being accredited by AAHA, the fact remains that those that are accredited stand out. But many of these hospitals don't leverage that fact by informing their communities that they've voluntarily chosen to become AAHA accredited.

We like to say our accredited hospitals are "Champions for Excellent Care," and we urge them to promote their accreditation using the tools we've developed. Don't let something you've worked so hard to achieve remain a secret. Accreditation is something to be proud of, and it's something your current and potential clients will appreciate once they understand what it means. AAHA's CEO Mike Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP (C/F) understood this in the late 80's, long before he came to work at AAHA headquarters in Colorado. We had a chance to sit down with Mike recently and ask him a few questions about accreditation.   

Red: When you were a director at West Ridge Animal Hospital, why did you decide to have the hospital become accredited?
Mike Cavanaugh: I learned about AAHA as a veterinary student and was always impressed when veterinarians who owned AAHA-accredited practices came around the veterinary school and occasionally spoke to student groups. They always seemed to be a cut above the rest. I sought out a mixed practice that had an AAHA-accredited hospital for my first job. Every practice I ever worked in was AAHA accredited and so there was little question my own hospital would be accredited. I opened in March of 1988 and was accredited in May of that same year.

R: How did you celebrate West Ridge's accreditation when you were director there?
MC: It was just me and one employee at that time. We put out press releases and got some articles in various local papers and neighborhood newsletters. I believe my personal celebration was a few beers with two of my brothers. One is an accountant and the other is an attorney and they helped a lot with getting me started on the right foot on the business side of my practice. As we grew, we talked a lot more about our AAHA accreditation at open houses and in any and all publicity or advertising we did. My employees and clients became staunch AAHA advocates.

R: What benefits did your practice and staff gain from celebrating their accreditation?
MC: As I stated, my staff and clients became great AAHA fans. I would often hear my client service people on the phone with price shoppers and they would always mention that West Ridge Animal Hospital was AAHA accredited. That changed the tone of many of those conversations and converted price shoppers to very good clients. And those clients referred a lot of friends and would ask to be referred to other AAHA-accredited practices if they had to relocate to a different city.

R: How did your AAHA accreditation make your practice stronger? 
MC: It was a constant reminder to be the best we could be as we sought to deliver excellent care to our patients and their people. The re-accreditation visits became team-building opportunities that really created a high degree of esprit de corps and there was much satisfaction having achieved a collective goal and the pride that went along with being accredited. 

R: Why should other AAHA-accredited practices consider spreading the word about their accreditation to their clients?
MC: I honestly can't fathom why any AAHA-accredited practice would not be shouting about it from their rooftop. Even in today's busy world, with lots of veterinary practices and competition out there, AAHA accreditation is still a great differentiator. AAHA has research that shows once pet owners understand that not all veterinary practices are accredited, they would seek out an accredited practice, drive further to get there, and even pay more for their services. 

Next is the team-building aspect and the positive effect becoming accredited has on a practice's culture. There are a few opportunities where the entire practice team can contribute toward a common goal. The accreditation process provides such an opportunity. There's nothing like achieving a collective to bring a team together. 

Finally, the intrinsic value for a veterinary professional to demonstrate to the world they are voluntarily seeking to be the best they can possibly be is priceless. 

What is your AAHA accreditation story? We'd love to hear why you chose to become and remain accredited and how you let your clients know that your practice goes above and beyond for their pets. Email us at [email protected] and your story could appear in the next issue of Red!

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Red is your guide to everything AAHA. Whether you’re looking for association news, updates on our educational offerings, the latest books from AAHA Press, deals from our Preferred Providers, or fun reads from various AAHA staff and AAHA-member veterinary professionals, this is where you’ll find it.

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