Should Canadian Hospitals Have 24-hour Visiting Policies?

New study shows inconsistencies in acute care hospital visiting policies

Ottawa, Canada – November 10, 2015 – The Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI) today released a study revealing inconsistencies in visiting policies at hospitals – frequently limiting visiting by family members and loved ones during morning and evening hours. A baseline study of 114 acute care hospitals across Canada reveals only 30 of the hospitals received top marks for having visiting policies that promote family presence and patient-centred care.

“Isolating patients at their most vulnerable times from the people who know them best can place them at risk for adverse events, emotional harm and inconsistent care,” says Maureen O’Neil, President, Canadian Foundation of Healthcare Improvement.

Evidence shows a clear benefit to adopting a patient- and family-centred approach to visiting hours, including: fewer medication errors and falls; improved patient outcomes and experience of care; better informed medical assessments and care planning; and reduced lengths of stay, readmissions and emergency department visits.

To promote more patient- and family-centred care at Canadian hospitals, CFHI today launched a national campaign called Better Together: Partnering with Families encouraging hospitals to review their policies with a view to adopting family presence policies. These policies/guidelines enable patients to designate family members and loved ones who can stay by their side 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Family presence is an innovative approach enabling family and loved ones to more fully participate in patient care by being present for physician rounds and helping their loved ones with transitions in care,” says Stephen Samis, Vice President, Programs, CFHI. “Our polling shows that nine in 10 Canadians support family presence. We are encouraging hospitals to start a conversation with their patients, families and staff about making this change.”

The CFHI study also found that accommodating visiting policies exist but are not common, and their implementation is not consistent. Adopting the family presence policy innovation creates a more welcoming environment for family and loved ones and is a practical step hospitals can take to make the care they provide more patient- and family-centred.

“Having my family with me while I was in hospital not only made the experience more tolerable, it was also an important part of easing my transition back home. They had been with me every step of the way which meant they understood how to support me when I left the hospital," says Emily Nicholas Angl, Patient Advisor, Patients Canada. “We can have the best policies in place, but to really be people-centred we have to allow for responsiveness to individual needs.”

Leading hospitals across Canada that have already adopted family presence policies in place of more traditional visiting hours include: Kingston General Hospital, Alberta Health Services South Campus, and Providence Health Care in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“At Kingston General Hospital, we have seen tremendous gains from adopting the family presence policy,” says Leslee Thompson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Kingston General Hospital and Chair, CFHI’s Board of Directors. “Healthcare providers in our hospital and patients have each found that they benefit from having the input and involvement of family members. After all, nobody knows the patient better than their family,”

To determine how open visiting policies in Canada are at the present time, CFHI earlier this year conducted a baseline study of 114 acute care hospitals, reviewing both the hospital’s posted visiting policies and how well they were communicated through the hospital’s website. Calls were then placed to the hospital’s switchboard operator to confirm the posted policies – the same approach a patients’ family might use. This methodology was adopted from a 2012 study of posted visiting hour policies at acute care hospitals in New York State. CFHI is supported in this campaign by a dozen leading healthcare organizations and is partnering with the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care (IPFCC), which has set a goal of getting 1,000 hospitals in North America to adopt family presence policies by 2017.


This report sets in motion the collaboration needed to highlight the importance of patient-family centered care. To reach this goal, the study includes the following recommendations:

To Canadian hospitals:

  • View families and loved ones as partners in care and engage them in planning and decision-making based on patient needs and preferences.
  • Creating a more welcoming environment for loved ones is a step that hospitals can take to make the care they provide more patient- and family-centred.
  • Hospitals, regional health authorities, long-term care facilities and facilities across the continuum of care are encouraged to sign the Better Together pledge at:
  • CFHI is providing resources to help hospitals make this change by developing and implementing family presence policies at their institution.

To Canadians:

  • Encourage family presence policies enabling patients to designate family members and other loved ones to have unrestricted access to them while they are in hospital.
  • To learn more about the Better Together campaign and the benefits of adopting family presence policies, please visit CFHI’s Better Together web page at

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The Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement identifies proven innovations and accelerates their spread across Canada, improving patient care, the health of Canadians and value for money. These innovations could save provincial-territorial healthcare budgets over $1 billion per year. CFHI is a not-for-profit organization funded through an agreement with the Government of Canada. Visit for more information.

For more information, or to arrange media interviews, please contact:

Joel Baglole
Senior Communications Specialist
Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement
C: 613-797-6481

Elissa Freeman
For the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement
C: 416.565.5605

 Better Together