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Accreditation How-to Guide

A Step-by-Step Guide through the Accreditation Process


Congratulations on your decision to become AAHA accredited! AAHA accreditation is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to providing top-notch veterinary care. Now what? Because this is your first experience with the accreditation process, AAHA has created this workbook to take you through the process a step at a time, and provide all the resources you might need along the way.

Step 1: Contact AAHA

Accreditation specialists are a great resource anytime you run into roadblocks or questions, and can be contacted as often as you need. When you contact AAHA, you will be given your specialist’s direct number and email, which you will want to hold onto for future questions.

Contact AAHA at 800-252-2242 or [email protected].

Step 2: Rule-outs and online evaluation tool

When you access the online evaluation tool for the first time, you will be presented with a set of “rule-out” questions. Based on your answers to these questions, the rest of the standards will be customized and standards that do not apply to your practice will be removed. After you answer the rule-out questions and click the “answer” button at the bottom of the page, you will be able to proceed to the rest of the standards in the online evaluation tool.

  • If you’d like to see a list of the rule-out questions for reference, click here
  • If you are applying for Referral accreditation and you’d like to see a list of the rule-out questions for reference, click here
  • Check out the AAHA “Guide to Getting Started”: PDF

AAHA strongly recommends you use the online evaluation tool how it’s meant to be used — online. First, the computer will add up your points for you, which avoids extra time and human error. Second, the online tool offers tips and linked resources throughout that you can click on for additional help in meeting standards.

Step 3: Mandatory standards first

Once you have answered the rule-out questions, go through the mandatory standards. You must be able to meet all mandatory standards to become accredited.

  • Here are the mandatory standards
  • Call or email your specialist for support and additional resources in meeting these standards

Step 4: Establish a timeline and involve the entire team

Timelines have proven successful for many of our members preparing for their onsite evaluation. It helps to keep the team focused, involved, and moving forward in the process.

Getting the whole team involved will make sure everyone is aware of how you are meeting the AAHA standards. Team involvement encourages good communication and collaboration throughout the preparation process and ensures you are not the only one following the timeline. Hold regular meetings about accreditation to check in on how team members are doing.

  • Here is AAHA’s suggested timeline: PDF | Webpage
  • Here’s a handout that will help you assign section responsibilities to your team, also located in the online evaluation tool
  • Here’s a video to help explain accreditation and motivate your team:

Step 5: Accumulating points—what do you do now?

Now that the mandatory standards are out of the way, focus on individual sections. Utilize appropriate team members and go through each section to see where you stand and identify areas for improvement.

Some of the areas that may require extra time and attention are:

  • Safety
  • Leadership
  • Human Resources
  • Continuing Education

Step 6: Protocols

A number of standards, none of which are mandatory, reference written protocols for your practice. They benefit patients and the entire team by minimizing mistakes and miscommunication. Protocols help everyone follow hospital procedures as well as provide a training tool for newly hired team members. It is important that your practice’s protocols are specific to your practice.

Samples that can be used as guidelines to update or create your own protocols are available in the online evaluation tool.

Step 7: Training

In addition to updating or changing processes, you’ll need to train your team. We have some materials to assist you:

  • CE tracking forms, which are available in the online evaluation tool
  • Checklists, which are available in the online evaluation tool
  • List of standards referencing annual training

Step 8: Tips, games, and tricks for preparing for the day

Some hospitals like to make the accreditation process fun by employing games to get everyone involved. You can access some fun activities through AAHA’s website. This activities area includes a scavenger hunt, a bingo game, and others as they are added.

Step 9: The day of your evaluation

Plan to spend a few hours with the AAHA Practice Consultant. The evaluation will be a consultative visit in which she offers feedback, recognizing things that your practice does well and offering suggestions on areas that may need improvement. She will go over the results with the team and you will find out if you passed that very same day.

Step 10: Celebrate

Congratulations, you did it! Celebrate your accomplishments.

Appendix A: Articles, forms, videos

Step 2: Rule-outs and online evaluation tool

Step 3: Mandatory standards first

Step 4: Establish a timeline and involve the entire team

Step 6: Protocols

Step 7: Training

Step 8: Tips, games, and tricks for preparing for the day

Step 9: The day of your evaluation

Appendix B: AAHA press materials

Human resources and practice management

Medical forms and records


Client education

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