Standards could soon be available to AVMA members, Welborn says
Dr. Link V. Welborn has a busy year ahead of him. As the 2003-2004 AAHA president, the Tampa, Fla., practitioner wants to spend his term helping AAHA practices thrive and increase the quality of heath care they provide. After all, that's why he wanted to be AAHA president.
While visiting various veterinary meetings throughout the country, Dr. Welborn will talk about the revised AAHA Practice Accreditation Standards, which he helped to develop as chairman of the Standards Enhancement Task Force.
The task force doubled the number of accreditation standards for general small animal practices, focusing primarily on quality of care issues. Facility and equipment standards have not been eliminated, Dr. Welborn explained, but the standards now address such practice areas as client service and human resources, as well as contagious diseases and pain management.
There are plans to eventually make the standards available to the entire veterinary profession. "We believe that, fairly soon, AVMA members will be able to access the standards, whether they're a member of AAHA or not," Dr. Welborn said.
"And we hope that in time, non-member veterinarians in Canada and perhaps other parts of the world will have access to the standards as well. Our focus is on improving the quality of care within companion animal practices in every way we can."
It's the first time the AAHA has offered its standards beyond its membership, according to Dr. Welborn. The idea is that, even if a practice owner isn't interested in AAHA accreditation, the owner might implement some of the standards, thus increasing the quality of health care to pets.
Dr. Welborn noted that the AAHA will revise the accreditation standards for specialty practices, too.
Over the course of his term, Dr. Welborn will also discuss findings from the AAHA's compliance survey (see story, this issue). To a large degree, practices don't measure client compliance with their veterinarians' health care recommendations. "We hope to raise awareness about the importance of compliance in achieving high quality care. In addition, we plan to give practices tools to help measure compliance and to develop plans to improve it," he said.
The association's traveling exhibit—"AAHA! Driving Excellence in Veterinary Practice" (see story, page 1491)—will provide Dr. Welborn with a chance to visit with veterinarians and veterinary students in a way not done before, he said.
In 1982, Dr. Welborn received his DVM degree from the University of Florida. A diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, he is owner and hospital director of three small animal practices in Florida.
His involvement in the AAHA spans just more than a decade, beginning in 1992, when he was a member representative. Dr. Welborn has been an AAHA alternate delegate in the AVMA House of Delegates. In addition to his presidential duties, he currently serves on four task forces, including representing the AAHA on the Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force.
Dr. Welborn is a member of the recently created AAHA Animal Welfare and Ethics Task Force. One issue that committee might soon examine is veterinary malpractice, which is a concern among a growing number of practitioners. The human-animal bond is stronger than ever, but can lead to disgruntled clients suing their veterinarian for alleged negligence or wrongful death of a beloved pet.
A common complaint within the veterinary profession is that increases in veterinary malpractice insurance premiums would need to be passed along to clients, who might then be unable to afford quality health care for their pets. "Ultimately," Dr. Welborn said, "we're all interested in the same thing: focusing on welfare of the pets and, at the same time, not altering veterinary practice in a negative way."