Visitation policies at New York hospitals continue to vary widely, and some even appear to violate federal and state regulations, according to a new report from a patient advocacy group.
For the report, New Yorkers for Patient and Family Empowerment and the New York Public Interest Group analyzed visitor policies and the hospitals' ability to communicate such policies at 99 New York hospitals with 200 or more beds. Researchers collected information from pre-recorded phone messages from at least two employees at each hospital and from hospital websites.
They then graded hospitals’ visitation policies and website communication on a ten-point scale assessing the facility's medical-surgical visiting hours, availability of morning and evening visitations, and website notices of flexibility for visitors.
With respect to visitation policies, the report awarded:
- Four hospitals a perfect 10 for offering flexible visiting hours for a “support person”; and
- Four hospitals a zero score for offering less than eight hours of visiting per day and not indicating any flexibility in their policies.
Furthermore, the report found that 26 hospitals claim to limit who can visit a patient to certain categories of people—such as “family” or “significant other”—which may violate state and federal regulations that allow patients to determine who comprises their support network at any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds.
In addition, the report found that hospitals fared worse for website communication. On a ten-point scale, it awarded:
- No hospitals a ten or nine;
- Eight hospitals a score of eight; and
- 27% of hospitals a score of three or lower.
The authors cite several studies finding that a “support person” can help prevent medical errors and facilitate the continuum of care following discharge. They further point out that 22 hospitals do not provide visiting hours in the morning, when many medical decisions are made and patients can benefit most from having an “extra pair of ears.”
The report concludes with a list of 10 recommendations to improve hospitals’ visitation policies and website communication (New York Public Interest Group release, August 2012; Bakerman, Ithaca Journal, 8/8; Seiler, Albany Times Union, 8/8).