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November 10, 2015

HQC supports new campaign promoting family presence policy in hospitals

Saskatchewan’s Health Quality Council is supporting a new campaign encouraging Canadian hospitals to adopt policies that give family members or other caregivers unrestricted access to patients while they are hospitalized.

Better Together: Partnering with Families, is designed to shift hospital policies so family members are treated as ‘partners in care’ rather than ‘visitors.’ It is led by the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI), in partnership with the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care and a dozen leading health care organizations across Canada.

“Family presence is an innovative approach enabling family and loved ones to more fully participate in patient care by being present for physician rounds and helping their loved ones with transitions in care,” says Stephen Samis, Vice President, Programs, CFHI. “Our polling shows that nine in 10 Canadians support family presence. We are encouraging hospitals to start a conversation with their patients, families and staff about making this change.”

Saskatchewan is already moving in this direction. “Our province is committed to advancing the philosophy of patient- and family-centred care,” says HQC’s Malori Keller, who co-chairs a group overseeing this work across health regions. “Work is already underway to have a standard provincial policy on open family presence in place by early 2016.”

Patient and family advisors were involved in developing the Saskatchewan policy, as well as representatives of health regions, the Health Quality Council, 3sHealth, eHealth Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, and the Ministry of Health.

Serese Selanders, a family advisor in Saskatoon, says having restricted access to a loved one while they are in hospital compounds an already stressful situation. “If I had been allowed to be at my Mom’s bedside on my own terms I would not have felt as much anxiety.  Being barred from seeing my mom for hours at a time caused unnecessary stress for me and my family.” 

Benefits of family presence include

  • better informed assessments and care planning;
  • lower readmission rates;
  • fewer medication errors and improved medication adherence;
  • better retention of cognitive function in seniors;
  • fewer falls and other accidents;
  • improved coordination of care;
  • reduced lengths of stay and emergency department visits;
  • decreased patient and family anxiety;
  • improved organizational culture; and,
  • improved patient outcomes.

Recent research shows that nearly half of Canadian hospitals have policies that are at least somewhat accommodating, with about a quarter of hospitals receiving top marks for having visiting policies that promote family presence and participation. Many leading hospitals have already adopted family presence policies in place of more traditional visiting hours, including Kingston General Hospital, Alberta Health Services South Campus and Providence Health Care in Vancouver, British Columbia.