Last Updated: Jan. 25, 2021
- John Romond, MD (University of Kentucky College of Medicine)
- Rachel Weiss, MD (University of Virginia School of Medicine)
- James Harrison, PhD (University of California, San Francisco)
- Nila Radhakrishnan, MD (University of Florida College of Medicine)
- Martie Carnie (Brigham and Women’s Hospital)
- Cathy Hanson (University of Miami Health System)
Professional Society Guidelines and Resources
Recommendations for inpatient hospital visitor restrictions were coordinated between hospitals and state and local Departments of Health with input from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and thus varied significantly based on hospital location.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early March 2020 necessitated hospitals throughout the country to quickly and systematically implement stricter-than-usual visitor restriction policies across their institutions (inpatient and outpatient areas). These policies, which have undergone rapid and often confusing changes since their inception, have had a long-reaching impact on hospitalized patients — those with and without COVID-19 — as well as their families, caretakers, and advocates. Knowing this, we set out to collect and characterize inpatient hospital visitor restriction policies in the United States. Our data was collected at two time periods: In 5/2020, after soliciting information from associated HOMERuN sites, we received internal documents from 18 institutions detailing visitor restriction policies adopted between March and May 2020. This information was subsequently supplemented with data abstraction from 70 hospital websites containing publicly available information about medical center visitor restrictions. Data was abstracted and summarized from websites between August and October 2020.
Our analysis of these visitor restriction policies revealed wide variability across institutions and highlighted significant gaps in 1) addressing visitation policies for patients with behavioral and mental health issues, for patients at admission/discharge from the hospital, and those patients at end of life, as well as in 2) communicating clear expectations for visitors on arrival to the hospital. Key takeaways from our study of this data include the importance of clear, consistent, widely disseminated visitor restriction policies, for which websites appeared to be particularly useful tools for staff, patients, and families. Based on our data analysis and with input from the HOMERuN Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC), we have also compiled a toolkit of “better” practices for hospitals/institutions looking to design or improve their inpatient visitor restriction policies.