Overview: Better Together helps hospitals welcome families as partners in care

When families are welcome to visit their loved ones in healthcare facilities, patients tend to do better. A growing body of evidence indicates that traditional visiting hours limiting the presence of family members can have negative effects on quality, costs and outcomes.

Patient- and family-centred care is an approach to the planning, delivery and evaluation of healthcare that recognizes the importance of partnerships between healthcare providers, patients and families. It redefines relationships by emphasizing collaboration at all levels of care and in all healthcare settings. The family presence policy innovation is a practical step healthcare organizations can take to deliver more patient- and family-centred care.

Better Together: Partnering with Families is a campaign that began in the United States when the Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care encouraged hospitals to review their visiting policies and recognize the key role families play in improving patient outcomes – rather than viewing families simply as visitors.

CFHI has championed the Better Together movement in Canada, bringing together a coalition of leading quality, safety and patient organizations to spread the family presence innovation across Canada. In 2015, CFHI released a study revealing that fewer than one-quarter of Canadian hospitals had accommodating visiting policies. As part of the campaign, CFHI has called on hospitals and healthcare delivery organizations across Canada to take the Better Together pledge, a commitment to review visiting policies with patients and families as a first step towards implementing a family-presence policy.

Tangible changes in family presence can be seen across the healthcare landscape in Canada, with more than 50 organizations taking the Better Together pledge. Saskatchewan, an early adopter of family presence, has now been joined by New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, as they have developed and implemented province-wide family presence policies, including 24/7 visiting hours for family members and other loved ones designated by the patient. Other provinces and territories are taking note and learning from these provinces on how to move forward with these patient-centred policies.

In support of the Better Together Campaign, CFHI also launched the Better Together: Partnering with Families e-Collaborative to support organizations as they develop and implement new family presence policies. From May 2016 to March 2017, the e-collaborative supported 11 healthcare organizations from across the country in their policy development; conservatively, more than 62,600 patients per year stand to benefit from this change. It provided educational content, coaching and access to a pan-Canadian network for organizations as they pursued changes to family presence policies and patient-centred practices.

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