Timeline and evaluation preparation checklist

A step-by-step guide through the accreditation process

Congratulations on your decision to seek AAHA accreditation! AAHA accreditation is a fantastic way to demonstrate your commitment to providing the best in veterinary care.

Not sure what to do next? AAHA has created this step-by-step guide to prepare you for the  evaluation process and ensure you have all the resources you might need along the way. We’ve also included a list of frequently asked questions and associated answers to help you prepare for the day of your evaluation.

And of course, if you have questions or need further guidance, please reach out to your Member Experience team at any time by calling 800-252-2242 or emailing practice.accreditation@aaha.org.

Your accreditation guide: Leading up to the day of your evaluation

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Step 1: Reach out to your accreditation specialist

Your accreditation specialist is an excellent resource for any question you have or any roadblock you run into. Your specialist’s primary role is to support you throughout the accreditation evaluation process.

Ask AAHA for your specialist’s name, direct number, and email address, which you will want to hold on to for future questions.

Not sure who your specialist is? Contact us at 800-252-2242 or practice.accreditation@aaha.org to find out, or click here to find your specialist based on your location.

Step 2: Answer your personalization questions and enter your online evaluation tool

When you access the online evaluation tool for the first time, you will be presented with a set of personalization questions. Don’t worry, these questions are simply intended to personalize the evaluation to your practice.

Based on how you answer these questions, your evaluation will be customized to your practice, and accreditation standards that do not apply to your practice will be removed. After you answer these questions and click the “answer” button at the bottom of the page, you will be able to proceed into the online evaluation tool.

While you may be tempted to print out the questions that appear in the evaluation tool, AAHA strongly recommends that you utilize the online evaluation tool how it’s meant to be used—online. The online tool offers tips and linked resources throughout the process, which you can click on for additional guidance. Plus, the online tool will track your points as you progress, saving you time and effort.

Step 3: Proceed with the online evaluation tool; focus on answering AAHA’s mandatory standards first

Once you have answered your personalization questions, begin answering AAHA’s mandatory standards. Only about 50 of AAHA’s 900+ standards are mandatory, but you must be able to meet all mandatory standards in order to become AAHA accredited.

Don’t forget to call or email your accreditation specialist for support and to request additional resources at any point.

Step 4: Establish a timeline and engage your team

AAHA has found that timelines have proven successful for many of our members as they prepare for their onsite evaluation. A timeline helps to keep the team focused, involved, and moving forward in the process.

It’s never too early to engage your team in the accreditation process! Getting your entire team involved will help ensure that everyone is aware of how your practice is meeting AAHA’s standards. Team involvement also encourages strong communication and collaboration throughout the accreditation process; AAHA suggests holding regular meetings to touch base with your team, and you may also want to consider:

  • Forming smaller teams and assigning team leaders
  • Delegating certain sections of the online evaluation tool to appropriate team members
  • Assigning deadlines for specific tasks and checking in on those deadlines during your team meetings

Consider showing the following video to your team in order to help explain the accreditation process and engage them further.


Step 5: Continue with the online evaluation tool

Once you have completed answering the mandatory standards, begin focusing on each of the remaining standards sections. Consider delegating some sections to appropriate team members, and review each section to see where your practice currently stands as well as identify potential areas for improvement.

Some standards sections that may require extra time and attention are:

  • Safety
  • Leadership
  • Human resources
  • Continuing education

Again, consider delegating these sections to appropriate team members to help distribute the workload while engaging your team in the process.

Step 6: Develop any necessary protocols

A number of standards (none of which are mandatory) reference written protocols for your practice. These protocols benefit patients and your entire team by minimizing mistakes and miscommunication. Protocols also help to ensure that everyone on your team follows hospital procedures; they also serve as a training tool for newly hired team members.

It is important that your practice’s protocols are specific to your practice. You can find sample protocol templates that can be customized or you can create your own protocols throughout your online evaluation tool. You can also reach out to your accreditation specialist for support at any time.

Step 7: Begin training your team

In addition to reviewing your practice’s processes, you may need to train your team to ensure they have the appropriate education. CE tracking forms and other related checklists are available as resources throughout your online evaluation tool. Reach out to your accreditation specialist at any time if you need additional support or have questions about training that your team members may need.

Step 8: Prepare for your evaluation day

Many practices like to make the accreditation process fun by employing games to get everyone involved, especially as you prepare for your evaluation day. AAHA is all for this! Fun activities could include setting up a scavenger hunt for you team to identify items throughout your hospital related to AAHA accreditation, and creating a bingo card for your team members to fill in, with questions that test their knowledge of AAHA standards.

FAQs regarding the day of your evaluation

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What should I expect on the day of my evaluation?

On your AAHA accreditation evaluation day, plan to spend a few hours with your AAHA practice consultant. You do not need to close your practice, change appointments, or operate your hospital any differently; in fact, it's ideal for your practice consultant to see your practice as it is on any other day.

The evaluation will be a consultative visit in which your practice consultant offers feedback, recognizes everything that your practice does well, and offers suggestions on opportunities for improvement. She will review the evaluation results with you and your team onsite at the end of her visit.

Who needs to be present on the day of the evaluation?

Your practice consultant will need a point person to lead a tour of your practice, answer questions, and be the main contact person during the evaluation. This point person can be whomever you decide is appropriate. It is recommended, but not mandatory, that the medical director and key team members be present to discuss the outcome of the visit at the end of the evaluation.

What materials (written or electronic) do I need to have available for review during the evaluation?

You will want to ensure that the following material is available to provide to your practice consultant:

  • Employee handbook
  • Protocols and SOPs (including things like safety and disaster preparedness)
  • Log books, forms for surgery, anesthesia, etc.

Reach out to your accreditation specialist at any time for additional guidance.

Do I need to have medical records pulled in advance for my evaluation?

No, your practice consultant will decide on the day of your evaluation what cases and medical records they will need to review. This decision will be based on what your practice consultant observes during your evaluation; they will likely request medical records from each veterinarian. The review may include surgical, dental, inpatient, and other cases.

How long will my evaluation take?

Most evaluations average three to six hours, depending on the size of your practice. Referral practice evaluations may take multiple days, depending on the number of specialties being evaluated.

Is it OK to schedule appointments and/or surgeries during the evaluation?

Absolutely. AAHA doesn’t expect your practice to close on the day of your evaluation; rather, we encourage you to do what works best for your practice. You can schedule a normal day, a lighter day, or a half day, depending on the needs of your practice.

When will we know if we have successfully achieved AAHA accreditation?

Your practice consultant will present the evaluation results to your team the same day, at the end of your practice's evaluation.

Will my practice consultant ask my team members questions?

Your practice consultant may ask your team questions about where certain things are kept or how a procedure is done, but they will never single out an individual team member. Your practice consultant is there as your consultant to evaluate your practice and to share helpful information, not to “inspect” your practice. Your practice consultant is deeply invested in the success of your practice and wants to help your team achieve their goals.

Will my practice consultant need to take a lunch break?

AAHA practice consultants usually work through lunch in order to provide you with the results of your evaluation in a timely manner. You are welcome to break for lunch; your practice consultant will not expect a meal or any other accommodations to be provided.

Will I need to provide my practice consultant with a printed copy of my answers to the standards?

No, everything is recorded electronically and your practice consultant will work with the answers you’ve entered in the online evaluation tool.

What if I have to cancel or reschedule my evaluation?

AAHA practice consultants are assigned to territories that cover multiple states, and may only be in your location once a year. We understand that emergencies happen, and we will always work with you to set up evaluation dates that work well for everyone at your practice.

We achieved AAHA Accreditation! Now what?

Congratulations! Now, it's time to celebrate and enjoy your AAHA benefits. Achieving AAHA accreditation is a huge accomplishment that also entitles you, your practice, and your team to all of the benefits available to our accredited members. We highly recommend congratulating your team with a celebration! Then:

  • Review your postevaluation summary of recommendations
  • Let your clients know that you're now AAHA accredited. Consider posting this exciting announcement on your practice's Facebook page, and access additional free marketing material in the AAHA Publicity Toolbox
  • Begin utilizing your free AAHA | Learning subscription for online CE
  • Request to join the AAHA-Accredited Members Facebook group. A private community just for AAHA-accredited members, this is a great resource for sharing ideas and gathering feedback on practice challenges
  • Consider enrolling in AAHA Advantage, a unique purchasing program in which all the discounts and rebates you earn go right back into your practice—AAHA does not take anything off the top