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AAHA responds to COVID-19 pandemic

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The arrival of COVID-19 to North America has forced many veterinary hospitals to assess their current practices and find solutions to continue business “as normal” while respecting the recommendations and mandates of the CDC, WHO, and other federal, state, and local ordinances. The constantly evolving updates on COVID-19 have kept veterinary hospitals vigilant in doing what they can to mitigate the spread of this disease, and at AAHA it is no different.

AAHA is known for creating a higher standard of care and safety for pets, and this passion extends to our members, the public, and our team as well. Therefore, to do our part in mitigating COVID-19, AAHA has made protocol and operational changes in response to this unique situation.

First, it is important to note that AAHA’s standards are written in a way that have fully encompassed the solutions that both AAHA and accredited hospitals are finding and utilizing. AAHA is keeping a keen eye on solutions that hospitals are doing to ensure standards compliance, and the organization is continuously monitoring whether any temporary changes in standards are appropriate.

The entire team at AAHA headquarters in Colorado has been given the option to work from home to ensure they and their loved ones remain as safe as possible during this pandemic. The amazing advancements in technology have allowed them to still be available to members and the greater veterinary community in all the normal ways during regular business hours.

The creative use of technology is also enabling AAHA to do its part in keeping practice consultants and hospital teams safe by offering virtual accreditation evaluations. At this time, AAHA has suspended air travel for team members, and virtual evaluations are being offered to members instead. AAHA’s leadership team is continually evaluating this evolving situation and monitoring recommendations by the CDC (and other organizations) to respond appropriately. If an evaluation has been determined to be one that needs to be conducted virtually, members are notified by their accreditation team and given instructions on how to best conduct the process of going through a virtual evaluation. If an accredited hospital has an upcoming evaluation but has not heard from their accreditation team about needing to transition to a virtual evaluation, they can assume all things will proceed as normal for their evaluations. Of course, as the pandemic response develops, the possibility that an on-site evaluation will need to convert to a virtual evaluation remains.

Evaluations are being performed with a variety of hardware and software technologies. Communication between hospitals and their accreditation teams is important to establish which virtual platform will work best for each hospital in achieving a successful evaluation experience. Currently, AAHA is using tablets, smartphones, and laptops, as well as Apple’s Facetime and Microsoft Teams program, to name a few of the tools used in the virtual evaluations. In addition, virtual evaluations may require some modifications to the evaluation process. This could include sending documents to a practice consultant ahead of time and having a longer time commitment from a member of the practice team during the evaluation time.

Everyone at AAHA understands that members are encountering individual unique situations due to the pandemic right now. The resourcefulness AAHA-accredited hospitals are showing in finding solutions for the challenges of operating their hospitals while remaining compliant with AAHA Standards of Accreditation have been nothing short of impressive. AAHA is asking member hospitals to please continue to find and utilize these creative solutions and notify their accreditation teams if they have specific questions on how the solutions align with AAHA’s Standards of Accreditation.

AAHA appreciates every member’s willingness to take on the challenges of these unprecedented times and will continue to do its part in offering solutions to AAHA members.

Member practices with questions pertaining to AAHA’s response to COVID-19 can call AAHA at 800-883-6301 or contact their individual accreditation team. Members can find their information on AAHA’s website.

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