Sick, Scared & Separated from Loved Ones (hospital visiting rules)

State pledged to press hospitals to comply with patients’ legal right to choose visitors:  The New York State Department of Health pledged to press hospitals to comply with the patient’s right to choose visitors.  Patient & Family received a very positive letter from the Department of Health thanking us, along with NYPIRG and Lambda Legal, for our August 2013 letter calling their attention to the issue of hospital compliance with the patient’s legal right to choose who can visit, including in intensive or special care units.  The Department’s letter (dated Sept. 17, 2013) stated:  “As a result of your report ‘Sick, Scared and Separated from Loved Ones II: progress and Problems in Hospitals Disclosing the Patient’s Right to Choose Who Can Visit,’ the Department is working with the applicable Hospital Associations to reach full compliance with state and federal hospital visitation policies throughout the state.”

2013 Report – Sick, Scared & Separated from Loved Ones IIThe patient — not the hospital — has the right to decide who can visit at bedside when visitation is restricted for clinical reasons, such as in the intensive care unit. That visitor might be a family member or “significant other,” or it might be a trusted friend or adviser.  The patient decides.  This is the law at both the New York State and federal level.  Yet many hospitals still misinform the public on their websites, either claiming directly or implying that visitation in certain special care units is limited to “family” or “immediate family only,” without a statement that the patient decides who “family” is – and it might not be a blood relative.  This report — issued by Patient & Family and the New York Public Interest Research Group, in consultation with Lambda Legal — found that nearly one out of five large (200 or more staffed beds) hospitals — 17% (17 out of 99) — still had outdated language on their websites.  This was an improvement over the situation we found in 2012, when 30% of the hospital websites had such problems, but more progress should be made.  On the positive front, more than one-third of these hospital websites  had clear, informative language about the patient’s right to choose visitors — a number that has more than tripled since 2012.  In response to the issuance of this report, several hospitals improved their websites.  We hope that more will follow.  Read our full report and find your hospital in one of the tables in our appendices.

Sick, Scared and Separated from Loved Ones II – Report

Statement of Support from Janice Langbehn – whose story of a disturbing denial of visitation rights, and ensuing advocacy, prompted President Obama to issue a Presidential Memorandum requiring new regulations (42 CFR §482.13[h]) to clarify the patient’s right to choose who can visit

Appendix A: NYS Acute Care Hospitals’ Website-Posted Visiting Policies That Are Inconsistent or Conflict With Patients’ Legal Right to Choose Visitors (rev. Aug. 2, 2013)

Appendix B – NYS Acute Care Hospitals’ Website-Posted Visiting Policies That Comply With and Inform Patients/Visitors About Patients’ Legal Right to Choose Visitors (Aug. 2013)

Appendix C: NYS Acute Care Hospitals’ Website-Posted Visiting Policies That Do Not Conflict With – But Do not Fully Disclose – Patients’ Right To Choose Visitors (Aug. 2013)

Appendix D: Positive Changes in Website-Posted Visiting Policies of NYS Acute Care Hospitals Regarding the Patient’s Right to Choose Visitors (rev. Aug. 2, 2013)

Appendix E – Complete Spreadsheet List of Hospitals with Category of Compliance (rev. 8-02-2013)  (also identified by county)

Attachment F: Template of March 14, 2013 letter to hospital executives regarding need to correct websites

Original 2012 Report – Sick, Scared & Separated from Loved Ones:  As a patient, from the moment you enter that hospital door, your world changes. You are surrounded by strangers who give you instructions and warnings that you may or may not understand. You are inundated by noise from machinery, beeps from electronic devices, bright lights, and the bustling voices of hospital staff. You may share a room with someone you’ve never met before.

Visits from loved ones and friends can help patients cope with these disorienting impacts. A trusted “support person” can help you monitor your care, take notes while doctors or nurses talk to you, and sometimes even prevent prescription errors and other mistakes — but only if the hospital does not bar the door to your room with unnecessarily restrictive or unfair visiting rules!

A national policy is now in place to keep the patient in the driver’s seat regarding who can visit and to require hospitals to justify restrictions.

This August 2012 report by New Yorkers for Patient & Family Empowerment and the New York Public Interest Research group (NYPIRG) reviewed visiting policies for 99 acute care hospitals having 200 or more staffed beds, throughout New York. It highlighted hospitals with flexible, patient-centered policies and urges other hospitals to learn from them. It also identified hospitals whose written policies, as posted on their websites, conflict with new federal and state regulations about the patient’s right to choose who can visit them. See:

Sick, Scared and Separated From Loved Ones (Complete Report)

Appendix A – Visiting Hours Evaluation Form

Appendix B – Website Evaluation Form

Appendix C – NYS Acute Care Hospitals (200+ beds) – Scores

Appendix D – Hospital Statement Consistency

Appendix E – NYS Acute Care Hospitals (200+ beds) – Visiting Hours Guide

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