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More hospitals eliminate visitation limits

Patient groups, AHA support expanded visitation policies

Topics: Access to Care, Quality, Performance Improvement, Patient Satisfaction, Service, Labor Expense, Workforce

October 22, 2012

Hospitals nationwide are changing their policies to allow visitation around-the-clock in an effort to improve communication and patient experiences.

The move follows a 2011 CMS mandate requiring facilities that treat Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries to maximize a patient's access to their family and friends. Specifically, the mandate requires that facilities establish a written policy and explain any limitations or restrictions on visitation.

At Staten Island University Hospital, officials this summer implemented a new visitation policy, and they plan to release a detailed explanation to patients in November. The policy allows around-the-clock visitation and lets patients choose a support person who remains with them overnight.

"The success of this is very much dependent on everybody's courtesy toward each other and having empathy for the other patient in the room," hospital spokesperson Arleen Ryback says.

Patient advocacy groups and the American Hospital Association (AHA) support the move toward 24/7 visitation. "We want to make the best environment for the patient to recover," AHA Vice President Nancy Foster says, adding, "We are seeing more hospitals revisit their visitation policy to be clear of what they allow and to clarify restrictions."

According to Foster, an open visitation policy should empower patients to decide who can and cannot visit. A New Yorkers for Patient and Family Empowerment report notes that an open policy might also designate "quiet times" when no visitors are allowed.

But hospitals may encounter some challenges to implementing around-the-clock policies. For example, hospitals must provide additional staff, security, and sleeping chairs for overnight guests.

Foster also notes that guests may disrupt patients in shared rooms. For instance, roommates may not be able to sleep with the distraction of late-night conversation (Donnelly, Staten Island Advocate, 10/21).

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