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All-night visiting hours help patients’ hospital experiences

Saturday December 21, 2013
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Removing restrictions on hospital visiting hours can enhance outcomes by lowering patient anxiety levels and feelings of social isolation, according to a study.

In the U.S., there is increasing support for eliminating visiting restrictions, which has been a common practice in European hospitals, according to background information for the study, which is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Healthcare Quality. Family and friends are viewed as patient advocates and many hospitals actively encourage more active patient and family involvement in clinical decision making.

Morristown (N.J.) 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-October 2012, the medical center had 14,444 visitors between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., with 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 could visit. Two visitors were allowed in a room.

Patient satisfaction survey scores rose after the open visitation policy on both a commercial satisfaction survey and the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey, which helps determine a hospital’s Medicare bonus or penalty payment. Family members expressed positive comments about being able to visit their loved one before going to work.

As well, “unit staff received fewer phone calls for patient updates and acknowledged that the experience had been positive,” the authors wrote.

“Our experience suggests that open visitation at both acute care and post hospital can be accomplished with little disruption and improve the patient and family experience,” David J. Shulkin, MD, FACP, president, Morristown Medical Center, said in a news release. “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.”

The Journal of Healthcare Quality is the peer-reviewed publication of the National Association for Healthcare Quality. Study abstract: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jhq.12035/abstract


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