Healthcare News & Insights

Why unrestricted visiting hours may work wonders at your hospital

Hospitals looking to improve their quality of care and reputation among patients should consider expanding their visiting hours, according to a new study.

177817139The study, conducted at a New Jersey hospital, Morristown Medical Center, examined the effects of a more liberal visiting-hours policy on patient satisfaction scores.

The hospital did away with its traditional visitors’ policy in favor of one that allowed visitors 24 hours a day. On its website, the hospital describes its new policy as “a patient-centered, 24/7 open visitation policy,” with some exceptions based on departments.

Creating the policy turned out to be a great move, according to a press release. Patient satisfaction scores rose, with family members appreciative of the fact that they could visit the hospital at their convenience.

As a way to maintain safety and security in the hospital with a 24-hour visitors’ policy, any patients who visited after hours had to check in with a security officer at the reception desk. Only two visitors were allowed in the room at a time, and patients had the right to refuse visitors for any reason.

The extra effort paid off. Despite the expanded visiting hours, the hospital had no increases in complaints reported by patients or visitors.

Benefits of a 24-hour visiting policy

More and more, patients’ families are being seen as partners in patients’ care and recovery. Allowing family members to be constantly present at a patient’s bedside has many benefits in that regard. There are more chances for staff to give them crucial care instructions they’ll need to follow after their loved one is discharged.

Also, the presence of family members can both calm patients and boost their morale. That, in turn, may increase the speed of their recovery. It’s already proven beneficial at children’s hospitals across the country, which tend to have more generous visiting hours than facilities geared toward adults.

“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 Dr. David J. Shulkin, the president of Morristown Medical Center, 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.”

So if your hospital has limits on visiting hours, it may be worth revisiting that policy and making it more flexible for the benefit of patients and their families. The results could be significant.

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