DENVER — The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) released draft guidelines regulating communication between veterinarians referring
and those receiving patients and seeks industry response and collaboration to develop a final version for implementation.
A task force, made up of general practitioners and representatives from several clinical specialties, practice management
and quality assurance, was appointed by AAHA to develop the specific referral guidelines for companion-animal practices.
AAHA is gathering input from as many sources as possible, including general practitioners, private practice specialists, emergency
clinicians, teaching hospitals, specialty organizations and organized veterinary medicine, with the goal of producing practical
guidelines that fully address all referral issues.
"It is our hope that the final set of guidelines will be utilized as a template for enhancing referral relationships in local
communities throughout North America," says Link V. Welborn, DVM and chairman of the AAHA Accredited Referral Practice Task
The draft outlines the responsibilities of referring and receiving veterinarians before, during and after the referral process
has been completed. Topics such as record sharing, upholding the best interests of the client and building relationships with
clients are included. Pre-referral, both parties should communicate their specialties and certifications to ensure the veterinary
community is aware of available services. Once a referral is suggested, veterinarians should work together to ensure their
relationship with the pet owner is built on trust and respect, the guidelines say.
The referring and receiving veterinarians should strengthen communication, discuss options and work with the pet owner to
ensure complete understanding of options during the referral process, the guidelines add.
Regarding post-referral, the guidelines direct veterinarians to share any suggestions for service improvement and keep each
other updated on the progress of the patient and any communication with the owner.
The 10-person task force requested input to ensure the guidelines are thorough and include all issues broached during referral,
"By providing your views on ways to improve the draft referral guidelines, you have the opportunity to shape the final product.
Please share your perspectives with us," Welborn says in a letter to the veterinary profession.
The guidelines can be viewed on AAHA's Web site,