Removing restrictions on hospital visiting hours not only allows patients to spend more time with family and friends, it can enhance outcomes by lowering patient anxiety levels and feelings of social isolation, according to a study reported in the Journal of Healthcare Quality, the peer reviewed publication of the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ).
In the United States, there is increasing support for eliminating visiting restrictions, which has been a common practice in European hospitals. Today, family and friends are viewed as patient advocates and many hospitals actively encourage more active patient and family involvement in clinical decision making. Morristown (NJ) Medical Center implemented a 24-hour visitation policy and measured patient satisfaction scores before and after the open visitation policy was implemented.
In the first eight months of the new policy (March -- Oct., 2012), the medical center had 14,444 visitors between 8:00 pm and 5:00 am, but there was no increase in the number of complaints by patients or visitors. After-hours visitors were greeted at a reception desk by a security officer and every patient had the right to determine who may or may not visit. Two visitors were allowed in a room.
Patient satisfaction survey scores rose after the open visitation policy and family members expressed positive comments about being able to visit their loved one before going to work.
"Our experience suggests that open visitation at both acute care and post acute care hospitals can be accomplished with little disruption and improve the patient and family experience," said David J. Shulkin, MD, FACP, president, Morristown Medical Center. "Supporting patients in a way that allows them to be with family and loved ones can be an important component of the healing experience and may reduce the anxiety and social isolation associated with illness."
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