“Visiting hours are over,” is a statement many folks dread when visiting with friends and family in the hospital.
A report published by New Yorkers For Patient & Family Empowerment and the New York Public Interest Research Group, found that visitation rules vary widely in New York state. Four hospitals allowed for only eight hours of visitation, while 11 offered 24-hour “open” visitation. The report’s authors say restrictive visitation policies are outdated and more importantly, detrimental to patient health. It is commonly understood that patients feel more comfortable when surrounded by family and friends, but there are other evidence-based benefits.
Don Berwick, M.D., former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said patients’ family or friends help facilitate communication between the patient and the provider. In some cases, visitors are able to provide a more complete picture of the patient’s medical history and medications, which can help prevent medical errors and complications.
According to the Health & Human Services Inspector General, one out of every seven hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries is seriously harmed in the course of their care, and at least 44% of these events are preventable. Perhaps a few could have been prevented with information provided by a visitor. Visitors can also serve as physician extenders. Family members and friends who participate in healthcare decisions learn how to assist patients in continuing care outside the hospital. This can potentially prevent readmissions; improve outcomes; and lower costs.
The authors created a list of 10 recommendations that hospitals can consider when developing their visitation policies.