Hospitals fall short on compliance with state, fed visitation policies

Large hospitals in New York are still posting information online that is contrary to federal and state laws regarding who is allowed to visit patients, according to a follow-up report issued Thursday from the nonprofit consumer group New Yorkers for Patient and Family Empowerment and advocacy researcher the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).

The NYPIRG found 17 hospital websites explicitly stated or strongly implied restrictions on visitation to immediate family or close family or contained outdated language that conflicts with patients' right to choose who visits them, regardless of whether visitors are family members, spouses, domestic partners or any other visitor.

However, the report showed a 43 percent compliance improvement from last year. In its original July 2012 report, a year after rules on visitation rights from Medicare and The Joint Commission took effect, 30 hospitals still made contrary or inconsistent statements about patients' right to choose visitors.

Back then only 11 of New York's 99 largest hospitals had posted the correct information, and as of a review late last month, 36 of the hospitals now clearly disclose patients have the right to choose visitors--a 69 percent compliance improvement, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the websites of 46 hospitals contain no language about the patient's right to choose visitors, which doesn't violate federal or state laws but still fails to inform the public about visitation rights. Silence on the matter could deter visitors and prevent patients from having better support while in the hospital, the NYPIRG noted.

Already, at least three hospitals that used outdated information plan to update their websites, the Star Gazette reported. Rochester General Hospital and Phelps Memorial Hospital Center in Sleepy Hollow said they would revise the language on their websites, while Unity Hospital immediately updated its website.

For more:
- check out the report (.pdf)
- here's the Star Gazette article