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Healthcare Equality Index: Equal Visitation

The Core Four Leader Criteria in HRC’s national Healthcare Equality Index represent policies and practices that are considered foundational to LGBT patient-centered care. For this reason, each HEI participant that meets the Core Four criteria is awarded the designation “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality.”

To meet the second of the Core Four criteria, inpatient healthcare organizations must implement and document a visitation policy that:

  • Explicitly guarantees equal visitation to LGBT patients and their visitors AND
  • Is communicated to patients in at least two documented ways

This HEI criterion reflects CMS Conditions of Participation, Joint Commission standards, and recommendations in The Joint Commission LGBT Field Guide, as explained below.

Explicitly Protecting the Visitation Rights of LGBT Patients

When inpatient healthcare organizations explicitly guarantee equal visitation to LGBT patients, they offer vital assurance to patients and clear guidance to employees. Approaches to offering this critical guarantee include:

  • Prohibiting discrimination in visitation based on sexual orientation or gender identity, either explicitly within the visitation policy or by linking or making reference to an explicitly LGBT-inclusive patient non-discrimination policy
  • Including (or linking or making direct reference to) an explicitly LGBT-inclusive definition of “family”
  • Making an explicit reference to equal visitation for same-sex couples and same-sex parents
  • Noting explicitly that patients may designate the visitor(s) of their choice

As noted above, both CMS Conditions of Participation [PDF] and Joint Commission standards [PDF] call for equal visitation for LGBT patients and their visitors. Revisiting Your Hospital’s Visitation Policy, a joint publication from HRC and the American Health Lawyers Association, details the CMS and Joint Commission requirements and provides a wealth of other background information, as does the Joint Commission LGBT Field Guide. In addition, as noted below, some state laws guarantee equal LGBT visitation.

Informing Patients & Employees of Policy

As recommended by The Joint Commission LGBT Field Guide, the second of the HEI Core Four Leader Criteria calls on healthcare organizations with explicit equal visitation policies to communicate those policies to their patients and employees. This practice provides vital assurance to patients and important guidance to employees. To learn more about publicizing your policy, visit our page on Publicizing Your Patient Non-Discrimination and Equal Visitation Policies.

To receive Leader credit, HEI participants must document that they communicate their explicit equal visitation policy to LGBT patients in least two of the following ways:

  • Posted on facility website
  • In materials routinely given to patients at admitting/registration
  • In materials routinely given to patients at other time(s)
  • In materials routinely available for take-away in waiting areas
  • Posted in waiting area(s)

HEI participants are also asked to communicate their equal visitation policy to employees.