Hospital visitors are an important part of the healing process and care transitions planning for patients. They can help educate the care team, provide consistent communication and be an advocate for the patient. Having a visitor at the bedside ultimately eases the anxiety and fear of the patient and family and leads to a better healing environment.
Infection prevention and control practices that protect the well-being of patients and staff, while rationing personal protective equipment, necessitate restricting visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Policies may vary from hospital to hospital depending on the spread of the disease in the community, region and state; the type of care provided and the conditions for which the patient is being treated; the patient population and subsequent risk factors; and adequacy of space, supplies, staff and testing capability.
In July, MHA conducted a Mid-COVID-19 Response Survey and inquired about operational response, including visitor policies from our Missouri member hospitals.
Lessons Learned Speaker Series
The COVID-19 Lessons Learned from Missouri Hospitals is a speaker series that reflects on COVID-19 and its impact on Missouri hospitals, while looking forward to help prepare for what may yet come. A list of upcoming events and past recordings are available.
Emerging Missouri Practices
Hannibal Regional Healthcare System
Hannibal Regional Healthcare System carefully weighed the safety of their team, patients and visitors to create their visitor screening and reintroduction process. Their first visitor screening phase included full screening and temperature checks at each point. During this phase, visitors were not allowed except in certain cases, such as for surgery, women’s health and end-of-life. The second phase included a no mask, no entry policy. Screenings continued, but there were no temperature checks. Patients were allowed one visitor, with some continued exceptions. The current phase is a long-term approach that can be used consistently until Spring 2021. This phase expanded to include use of volunteers to track visitors of patients. Constant research and listening to the front-line employees have been key drivers to the health system’s visitor policy.
C. Todd Ahrens, FACHE
President and Chief Executive Officer
Hannibal Regional Healthcare System
Cox Medical Center Branson
Cox Medical Center Branson has remained nimble with their visitor screening and reintroduction during the COVID-19 pandemic to adapt to changing guidance and landscapes. During the initial phase, there were no visitors allowed with any patient, so visitors communicated with the patient via iPads made available on the inpatient floors. The second phase now allows one visitor per patient during specific hours. Exceptions have been made for end-of life, minors and mentally challenged patients.
Visitors are screened for symptoms and have their temperature taken each time they enter the building. Transparency and frequent communication through social media has been key to informing the public about the policy and number of active cases.
William K. Mahoney, FACHE
President — Cox Medical Center Branson
Senior VP — Community Hospital Group
Key National Resources
- CDC: Management of Visitors to Healthcare Facilities in the Context of COVID-19: Non-US Healthcare Settings
- CMS: Guidance for Infection Control and Prevention of COVID-19 in Hospitals, Psychiatric Hospitals and CAHs: FAQs, Considerations for Patient Triage, Placement, Limits to Visitation and Availability of 1135 Waivers