What is Accreditation?
If a hospital is accredited, it means it has passed inspections of cleanliness, medical practices, and even business practices. Accreditation means that the hospital has been inspected by a third party - someone that does not work for the hospital but has the power to say, "Yes, you are practicing good medicine and have a great animal hospital, so you are accredited." If the hospital does not meet the standards of the American Animal Hospital Association (a non-profit organization), then the hospital either has to change to meet best practices or they do not receive accreditation - it is really that simple.
In human medicine, hospitals must be accredited - or they cannot open their doors. This is of course a good thing. If the human hospital could not meet standards of cleanliness, you would not want to go there. Unfortunately, for veterinary medicine, it is not a requirement that a hospital be accredited. So what does that mean to you as a pet owner searching for the best veterinary care for your pet? It means you need to either have blind trust or you must inspect the place yourself. Few people have the time or expertise needed to evaluate a veterinary clinic; AAHA is there to do this for you, so you can be confident that the AAHA-accredited clinic that you choose has made this commitment to excellence.
Accreditation is good for the hospital and the pet owner. It is good for the hospital because there is an independent third-party coming in to inspect. Imagine if you had someone else come in to inspect your place after cleaning it. Without the inspector, you may not pull out that fridge to dust behind it. With the inspector, you are probably going to take the trouble to clean behind the fridge. Accreditation is another set of eyes - it forces accredited hospitals to be self-reflective and to be rigorous in their medical practices - greatly improving the quality of medicine practiced by that veterinary hospital. Accreditation is wonderful for the pet owner as it alleviates them from having to be experts in veterinary medicine to ensure your pet is receiving quality care in a clean hospital. It is equivalent to, but much more powerful than, that stamp of approval from the local health department saying the restaurant is clean and follows safe food handling procedures. Would all restaurants follow best-practice food handling procedures without a health inspector?