Research article: “Loved ones are not ‘visitors’ in a patient’s life”—The importance of including loved ones in the patient’s hospital stay: An international Twitter study of #HospitalsTalkToLovedOnes in times of COVID-19

(published: 26.1.2023)

The study underlines the importance of communication between hospital-based healthcare professionals and a patient’s loved ones in the context of, but not limited to, COVID-19-related hospital visitation restrictions.

During the campaign, a total of 4,412 unique tweets were posted that used #HospitalsTalkToLovedOnes or were created as a response to a tweet carrying the hashtag. A total of 7,040 Twitter users created or interacted with the tweets and the Twitter profile @HospitalsTalkTo gained 1,045 followers during that time.

The following themes were most frequently mentioned among most interacted tweets:

  1. Communication between hospitals and loved ones is important
  2. Needing/finding support as a loved one
  3. Loved ones should have a place at the bedside
  4. The importance of human interaction
  5. Healthcare system should support patients more
  6.  Improving communication with patients
  7. Adult care should strive to be more like pediatric care

Based on the experiences and wishes gathered through our #HospitalsTalkToLovedOnes campaign, we have formulated three recommendations to establish better communication between hospitals and patients’ loved ones.

  1. Establishing a reliable communication channel and allowing loved ones at the bedside.
  2. Embracing digital communication tools.
  3. Applying the principles of pediatric care to an adult care setting.

To summarize, “loved ones are not ‘visitors’ in a patient’s life”. Irrespective of COVID-19, patient’s loved ones need to be included during the patient’s hospital journey. Transparent communication and patient empowerment increase patient safety and improve the hospital experience for both the patients and their loved ones. Our findings underline the need for the concept of family-centered care to finally be implemented in adult nursing clinical practice.