The Effect of Hospital Visitor Policies on Patients, Their Visitors, and Health Care Providers During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review

Am J Med. 2022 Oct;135(10):1158-1167.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2022.04.005. Epub 2022 Apr 25.


Health care policymaking during the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has questioned the precedent of restricting hospital visitors. We aimed to synthesize available data describing the resulting impact on patient, family/visitor, and health care provider well-being. We systematically reviewed articles from the World Health Organization COVID-19 Global Literature on Coronavirus Disease Database published between December 2019 through April 2021. Included studies focused on hospitalized patients and reported 1 or more prespecified main or secondary outcome (coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19] disease transmission, global well-being, mortality, morbidity, or health care resource utilization). Two authors independently extracted data into a standardized form with a third author resolving discrepancies. A total of 1153 abstracts were screened, and 26 final full-text articles were included. Ten studies were qualitative, with 7 cohort studies, and no randomized controlled trials. Critically ill patients were the most represented (12 out of 26 studies). Blanket hospital visitor policies were associated with failure to address the unique needs of patients, their visitors, and health care providers in various clinical environments. Overall, a patient-centered, thoughtful, and nuanced approach to hospital visitor policies is likely to benefit all stakeholders while minimizing potential harms.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Health care; Policy; Virus; Visitor.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Health Personnel
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Pandemics* / prevention & control
  • Policy
  • SARS-CoV-2