A grassroots movement in Canada called Better Together has gained momentum across the country to influence Canadian hospitals to rethink the long-standing (and some would say outdated) model of “family visiting hours.”
The organization behind the movement, the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI), refers to a 2015 study showing that when family members are allowed to stay with their loved ones whenever they want, as long as they want, patients receive a better quality healthcare.
According to the Better Together campaign, benefits of 24/7 visiting hours include fewer medication errors, fewer falls, better medical assessments and care planning, reduced lengths of stay, and fewer re-admissions and emergency room visits.
Families are embracing the change.
“Having that flexibility really helped us, “said Sonia McComb, daughter-in-law of a former patient at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, St. Thomas, Ontario, in a press statement. “The nurses never rushed us. They encouraged us to take breaks but we were never asked to leave. It was such a long, hard battle for Jim and the compassion shown to us by everyone at STEGH, and the fact that we didn’t have to work around vising hours made it easier on all of us.”
In a 2015 poll conducted by CFHI, 9 out of 10 Canadians supported the open door policy.
Critics, however, are worried that prolonged visiting hours and an influx of people in hospital rooms would inherently lead to a spread of infection, inconveniencing other patients, and increased pressure on hospital staff.
Maureen O’Neil, President of CFHI addressed these potential problems, “…what we have found is that these concerns haven’t materialized and instead family presence has enabled loved ones to be part of the decision-making process, especially during physician rounds and helping people transition from hospital to home.”
In the United States, a study by the American Journal of Critical Care in 2016 found that having unrestricted visiting hours greatly improved family satisfaction with their hospital care and did not “adversely or positively affect nurse-reported interference with their clinical care.”
The CFHI of Canada is supported by the American organization Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care (IPFCC), which is also pushing to end or limit hospital visiting hours.
As of this week, 50 Canadian hospitals have implemented the Better Together policies.