Hospitals to admit support people with patients

    The agency that accredits hospitals will start enforcing a new rule this summer: Patients will have the right to choose one support person to be by their side nearly 24/7.

    The regulation is a jumping-off point for area hospitals already tweaking their culture of care.

    Standard procedure used be that if a patient were undergoing an invasive procedure, doctors would ask friends and family to leave the room.

    Now, that’s changing, as evidence builds that patient outcomes improve when a caregiver is present for all stages of care.

    Mary Walton, a nurse at the hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, said the new policy grew from experience.

    “We’ve learned that family members often say ‘I want to stay, you know if you want me to put on a gown and a mask I’ll do that, but I want to stay in the room, I want to be here. And I’m not going to faint, and I’m comfortable and I’m not going to get in the way,’ ” Walton said.

    Walton said her hospital is giving designated support people wristbands so they can be easily identified by doctors. And she is starting to train doctors on how to more effectively include family members while discussing treatment options and, perhaps most importantly, discharge plans.

    Michael Kotzen, a vice president at Virtua, a South Jersey health system, said he thinks a care-partner program at its new Voorhees location will improve patient outcomes.

    “Helping understand the discharge process, what medications to take at home, confirming follow-up appointments, tests, treatments, all of which with the goal to reduce things like readmissions,” he said. “And we do think it will have an impact to actually speed up the healing process while in the hospital.”

    Kotzen said each patient room in the new hospital will have a sofa bed, to make overnight stays by loved ones more comfortable.

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