Medical standards are essential to improving veterinary care. Not only do they help to reduce errors and risk to patient safety, they ensure that staff is acting in the best interest of patients and clients. Standards make sense, but are practices readily adopting them? To understand how extensively written medical standards are used in veterinary practices, VHMA surveyed its members. Based on a sample population of 113, 83% reported that their facility has written medical standards in place. A surprising percentage (17%), indicated that the practice has no written standards.
Practices are most likely to adopt standards for: vaccination recommendations (86%), pre-anesthetic testing (80%), surgical monitoring (73%), and heartworm test recommendations (72%).
Practices are less likely to create standards for: CBC/chemistry frequency recommendations (48%), microchipping recommendations (48%), other canine/feline specific diagnostic testing (42%), and nutrition recommendations (35%).
Among respondents reporting that their practice has adopted standards, more than 50% of these respondents identify more than a dozen practices and procedures for which standards exist and include: history taking, pain management, vaccinations, physician exam frequency, what to include in the physical exam, fecal exam recommendations, heartworm tests, flea and tick prevention, pre-anesthetic testing, surgical monitoring, patient body temperature monitoring, and spay/neutering.
When questioned additional medical standards that might be needed in the practice, respondents were most likely to point to nutrition recommendations (42%), followed by pain management (36%), CBC/Chemistry frequency (36%), other regular canine/feline specific diagnostic testing (32%) and history taking (32%). However, no one area emerged as sorely lacking in medical standards.
Can We Count on Your Support?
When staff agrees and supports the medical standards that have been adopted by a practice, there is a stronger probability that the standards will be adhered to and implemented. Among survey respondents, 69% said that staff agreed with the standards. Furthermore, 60% of respondents reported that staff reinforces the standards consistently with clients and 40% reported that the standards are enforced sometimes. While 28% described staff acceptance of the standards as a “mixed bag”—some agree with them, others do not—information was not provided about the ratio of those who agree to those who do not. Only 3% said that, in general, staff does not agree with the standards. And although staff may agree with the standards, not one respondent said that staff does not enforce the practice’s standards.
The majority of respondent (80%) say that their standards are consistent with or exceed AAHA/AVMA standards. Less than 3% described their standards as fall below thee guidelines.
The positive take away from this survey is that practices understand that medical standards are powerful tools that can be used to fine-tune practice performance, protect the health and safety of clients and provide clients with critical information about caring responsibly for their pet. Further evidence of practice’s commitment to quality care is the significant number of practices that have adopted a broad array of standards. Practices that have not adopted medical standards would be well-served by revisiting the decision and assessing the implication of operating guidelines.
VHMA's Champion's Workbook helps practices develop and implement medical standards - VHMA members can get a free copy by ordering before December 31, 2015.