The Washington Post, August 30, 2011

Over the past year, the ICU at my hospital has been field-testing a more open approach. We are not the first to do so. Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA, went to an open ICU policy nearly a decade ago, found it extremely disruptive and soon reverted to only 30 minutes of visiting six times a day. On a second attempt, however, Geisinger developed an extensive communication program for both families and staff, and open ICU visitation has been successful since 2003. A 1997 study found that open ICU visitation practices had a beneficial effect on 67% of patients and 88% of families. I am surprised by how well the open policy at our hospital has worked over the past six months. I have become comfortable seeing family members stretched on recliners in the ICU during my early-morning visits. They update me on how the night went for the patient. One ICU specialist said, "I don't have to chase down families to update them on what is happening." Some ICUs are also inviting families to participate when a team of a dozen professionals, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists and social workers, decide on the plan for the patient.

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