Make hospital visiting hours 24/7
Imagine telling a grandfather that his young grandson, whom he raised, can’t visit him while he’s in the hospital intensive-care unit because it’s after visiting hours. The grandfather dies. The two didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. This incident happened at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. Others like it have occurred at Anne Arundel Medical Center.
As leaders at these hospitals, we once believed restrictive visiting policies were needed to prevent the spread of infection and to make sure no one interfered with patient care. Although many U.S. hospitals continue these policies, we now know that, despite our best intentions, we were wrong. Such policies treat family members as visitors. What we as leaders need to realize is that hospitals are visitors in peoples’ lives, not the other way around.
Studies show that access to family and loved ones reduces patient complications and stress and improves the patient’s experience of care in the hospital. That’s why we’ve ended restrictive visiting policies and over the past few years we’ve welcomed patients’ families and loved ones 24 hours a day. We already are seeing improved patient and staff satisfaction. We believe this is better care and will lead to improved health outcomes.
But to realize the benefits—for patients, families and the bottom line—we’ve had to change our entire approach to care and treat patients and their loved ones as essential members of the healthcare team. We rely on families’ critical support to help patients heal. That’s what has made the difference.
So why aren’t more hospitals doing this? Maybe they don’t know how. Fortunately, the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care just launched a campaign called Better Together: Partnering with Families to give hospitals tools to change their policies and engage families as care partners.
How is it done? A first step is to bring together everyone involved—clinicians, patient and family advisers, security guards and others—as a team to guide the effort. Visit the institute’s website — ipfcc.org — for sample policies and case studies explaining how other hospitals did it.
Hospitals’ leaders should do the right thing and give patients 24/7 access to their loved ones and embrace them as partners in care. Many hospitals are already doing it successfully. What’s stopping you?