Hospital Visitor Management Helps Uphold Patients’ Rights
Coping with an illness or injury that requires a hospital stay is not an experience that anyone wants to encounter without the people they depend on most nearby. In fact, studies show that patients who have a say in who may visit them—both family and friends—are more likely to follow medical advice, recover faster, and experience better long-term outcomes than those whose visitor choices are limited by hospital policy visitor management policies.
Hospital visitor management policies
The history of visitor management policies in the healthcare industry is a long and sometimes contradictory tale. Not until after President Obama’s letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on April 15, 2010, were patients assured of the basic right to choose who can visit them in the hospital. Until then, the persons closest to the patient and the most involved in their care were routinely excluded from visiting because they did not fit into the hospital’s procedural definition of “family.”
In January 2011, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) revised their Conditions of Participation to require hospitals to develop visitation policies and procedures that include the right of patients to determine who may visit them while he/she is hospitalized. Written documentation of the patient’s designated visitors is not required by the regulation; patients may verbally approve visitors.
Once identified by the patient, designated visitors must enjoy the same visitation rights as any spouse or other immediate family members. The regulation does not prohibit “necessary clinical or reasonable” limitations on whom, how often, or when visitors should be accepted; it simply allows patients to choose the individuals they wish to grant visitation rights and requires hospitals to define the reason for any restrictions placed on visitation. Clinical reasons to limit visitation do exist, but reasons for visitor restrictions may not be based on “race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.”
Despite the clarity of this rule, many hospitals are still struggling to implement it.
What you may not hear about is the underlying concern hospital workers have over how their inability to control visitors coming and going without a traditional “family only” rule in place may undermine their sense of security. However, barring visitors who have the patient’s approval to be there is now considered by CMS as a violation of the “patient’s basic human rights.”
Authorized visitors only
An electronic visitor management system can automatically issue ID badges to all visitors authorized by a patient at the hospital entrance, eliminating worries that unauthorized visitors will take advantage of liberal visitation policies to gain access for nefarious purposes. A VMS can add a second layer of security by barring all unauthorized visitors from entering the building.
Physicians and medical industry workers who support the regulation understand that there is no one better to care for patients than the friends and family they love; traditional concepts of what constitutes “family” have no place in healthcare today.