Physician viewpoint: COVID-19 visitor restrictions may hurt more than they help

Visitor restrictions intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals could "inadvertently harm patients more than the virus itself," two physician leaders wrote in an op-ed for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The op-ed's authors are:

  • Amol Navathe, MD, PhD, co-director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute and assistant professor of medicine and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

  • Joshua Liao, MD, director of the Value & Systems Science Lab and associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Family and friends often play a critical role in helping patients navigate care, said Drs. Navathe and Liao, citing their own practice experience in hospitals. These visitors not only provide physicians with crucial information about a patient's prior health status, they also offer a second set of eyes to notice changes in the patient's condition, they said. Some patients with severe COVID-19 infections may become emotionally overwhelmed and have difficulty processing information involving medical decisions. Family and friends can act as "trusted decision-making partners and advocates" for these patients, the authors said. These loved ones can also help patients heal and recover.

To maintain these benefits, the physicians recommended hospitals tailor their visitor policies based on medical illness, visitor type and local COVID-19 case burden. They could also add safety precautions, such as prescheduling visitors or rotating them throughout the day, the physicians said.

"These measures are not meant to return hospitals to pre-COVID policies. Caution will be required for some time," Drs. Navathe and Liao wrote in the op-ed. "Hospitals should nonetheless ensure that in attempting to reduce COVID-related harm, visitor policies don’t cause more harm through reduced safety, suboptimal decision-making and poorer recovery in the hospital."

To view the full article, click here.

More articles on patient safety & outcomes:
Joint Commission's approval period cut short by CMS over survey concerns
Advance directives up nearly fivefold during pandemic, study finds
COVID-19 symptoms can be grouped into 6 clusters, UK researchers say


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