It can be argued that emotional support from loved ones during illness or injury can speed up the rate of recovery. But this is not a luxury medical professionals can afford their patients in the current environment. The stress of isolation not only takes its toll on the patient but also the patient’s loved ones. The inability to see and connect with hospitalized friends and family members in-person can significantly increase rates of stress and anxiety.
Healthcare professionals are forced to carry out a balancing act of doing what’s right for the patient and what’s right for the general population. Healthcare organizations should try to provide patients with a stress-free environment and peace of mind for the patient’s loved ones. Below we discuss the best zero visitor practices to maintain patient satisfaction during COVID-19.
Communicate the Zero Visitor Policy
In order to avoid any surprises, ensure your patients are well aware of the zero visitor policy far in advance of their visit to your facility. The policy should be communicated in such a way that it is easy to understand by all types of patients. Healthcare organizations should communicate the policy numerous times and in different ways.
Methods include clearly stating the policy through:
- Your website, patient portal, and social media channels
- SMS/email before the appointment
- Signage within your facility
Allow For Direct Communication
Hospital isolation can be taxing on anyone, but more so for the young, elderly, or people with disabilities. It’s essential to provide patients with a means to garner support from their loved ones when visitation is not possible. Provide your patients with a means to communicate with their loved ones directly. Encourage patients to bring WiFi-enabled devices and their charging cables and allow for personal devices within patients’ rooms. When a patient is required to stay for a length of time within a facility, which is normally the case for those recovering from COVID-19, “face-to-face” communication is vital to maintain strong mental health. The use of video may typically be prohibited, but exceptions should be made to allow patients to video call with their family. Exceptions may be made under the provision that a staff member is present to ensure the privacy of other patients within the ward/room or video calls may only be permitted at a specific time. This communication method allows patients and relatives to communicate in real-time, easing both parties’ apprehensions.
Establish A Reliable Communication System
Healthcare organizations should provide safe, practical communication methods to patients and their loved ones during this time. Text messaging family members during care is a convenient and effective way to communicate a patient’s status and progression. HIPAA-compliant text messaging allows staff members to securely communicate whether a patient is progressing normally or not, which keeps family members informed while they wait off-premise.
PatientTrak’s text messaging system is an industry-leading solution that helps keep patients, family members, and staff informed during hospital stays. During check-in, the relative’s contact number is recorded as well as their relation to the patient. Initially, PatientTrak’s communication system updated family members on how a patient was progressing during surgery. PaientTrak’s system can now provide family members with real-time updates on a patient’s stay within a healthcare facility.
The system also provides staff members with logistical messages, such as the progress of a patient throughout the facility and how long they may be waiting for care. Their functionality also notifies patients of where they should go and when the practitioner is ready for their appointment. Messaging functionality should only be available to specific users, depending on their authorization.
Most messages can be sent automatically via a predetermined template, saving staff time while still providing valuable information to relatives. Automatic messaging helps prevent any human errors/typos and HIPAA slip-ups. Staff members have the ability to create a message ad hoc if further information needs to be conveyed.
During this difficult time, it is possible to maintain a patient’s safety while avoiding the mental health complications that arise during isolation within a healthcare facility. Implementing zero visitor best practices not only improves the patient experience, but it helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. With text message and paging systems, healthcare organizations can keep everyone informed of a patient’s care while mitigating the need for a constant stream of visitors.