Next week, the Medicare Conditions of Participation (CoPs) for hospitals will include new requirements for policies, procedures, and communications to patients about visitation privileges.  The changes, which become effective on January 18, 2011, were designed to ensure that visitation privileges are not denied on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.  The new rules mandate providers to have written visitation policies that set forth any clinically necessary, or reasonable, restrictions or limitations that might affect visitation privileges.
Additionally, hospitals will need to inform all patients of their rights regarding visitation, including possible clinical limitations, their right to receive visitors that they consent to or nominate, including family or friends, and the corresponding right to withdraw such consent.  The new rules also allow a patient to orally designate a “support person.”

Many hospitals have reviewed and updated their visitation policies over the past few years in light of changes pertaining to civil unions and same-sex marriages. Often, however, during such focused reviews, an opportunity to revisit and improve upon the security side of visitation policies can be missed.  During DRI's March 10-11, 2011 Medical Liability and Health Law Seminar in San Francisco, a nationally known hospital security expert and an in-house counsel will be examining hospital security issues and related claims in much more detail. 

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