substance abuse treatment center visitor management

Best Practices for Visitor Management at Substance Abuse Treatment Centers

A clear, comprehensive visitor management plan has an important role in any office.

However, it’s especially important for substance abuse treatment centers, because visitors often play a key role in patients’ recoveries.

Casual visits from friends and family may ease your patients’ transitions to rehab, encourage them in their treatment, and help them begin rebuilding the relationships they’ll need to thrive once their treatment has finished.

In other cases, family and friends of your patients are visiting to take an active role in rehabilitation by taking part in group therapy sessions and support groups.

Regardless of what brings visitors through your doors, you want to make their experience with your substance abuse treatment center as pleasant and helpful as possible. Their visits can make or break your patients’ experience and your rate of success.

Here are the key components of a solid visitor management policy for a substance abuse treatment center.

Behavioral Guidelines for Visitors (in an Official Written Policy)

An official, written visitor policy is a best practice for any substance abuse treatment center. It makes expectations clear, and also spells out the potential consequences for violating those expectations.

But communicating expectations clearly may be even more important for substance abuse treatment centers, particularly those with inpatient care. You may choose to include a copy of this policy for new patients when they’re enrolled or admitted, but also make its review a part of the check-in process for all visiting friends and family.

Your substance abuse treatment center’s policy may include the following elements:

  • Which hours are acceptable for visiting (some rehab centers may limit visits on nights and weekends, for example)
  • The acceptable lengths of each visit
  • How long a patient must have been in the program before visitors are allowed (for example, many centers prefer to limit visits in the beginning as patients get acclimated to their care)
  • Any other criteria that must be met before visits are allowed (for example, some facilities may require family members to receive therapy of their own before visiting)
  • Acceptable behavior during a visit (examples of what kinds of activities are suggested or discouraged, where they can meet, and whether they may leave the campus)
  • Clarification on what materials are acceptable to bring, including any prohibited actions or substances, and how visitors will be screened for those substances
  • An explanation of what will happen when a visitor is asked to leave the premises for any reason (including violation of the visitor policy)

Get input from key staffers and clinicians as you develop your policy. When it’s finished, run the full policy and any other visitor expectations by your center’s lawyer.

Regardless of whether you use a visitor check-in app or a clipboard with paper, make sure you have a secure and reliable way to access visitor agreements in case you need to refer to them later.

Free download: 3 Ways to Prepare Family Members to Visit Your Treatment Center

A Plan for Security

Making it more difficult for unauthorized visitors to gain access to your treatment center (and keeping a closer eye on who’s on site) has many crucial benefits.

It can protect your employees, your patients, your assets, and your sensitive information from intentional harm, such as from theft or violence. It can also prevent unintentional damage such as accidental privacy breaches, or confusion during emergency evacuations.

Substance abuse treatment centers can benefit from many of the same security best practices that other employers benefit from, including these:

  • clear lines of visibility that prevent people sneaking through or around the property
  • clear perimeters that make it obvious when visitors have stepped into a private or restricted area
  • a visitor badge policy that can clarify quickly whether any given visitor has checked in, why they’re visiting, and how long they’re welcome

(For more physical security basics, check out our full post on the topic.)

But substance abuse treatment centers, especially inpatient rehabilitation centers, often have added layers of complexity in their visitor security efforts. In some cases, visitors must be approved ahead of time by patients and clinicians. Centers must also have a careful process in place for training their staff on how to screen visitors for illicit materials. All of this needs to be included in the policy, both for visitors and for employees.

substance abuse treatment center visitor management

A Plan for Privacy

Substance abuse is a very personal and emotional struggle. Patients trust your treatment center to keep their choice to seek treatment private. Click To Tweet

For this reason — and for potential legal reasons — you should treat their personal information with the utmost care.

If your center uses electronic health record software, it should be compliant with all privacy laws. However, patient privacy issues extend to the lobby of your treatment center, as well.

Here are a few ways to show patients (and visitors) that you respect their privacy as soon as they check in.

  • Keep quiet: don’t call out full names when it’s time for an appointment, and clarify to staff that office visitors will not be expected to verbally confirm personally identifying details within earshot of anyone else in the waiting room.
  • Don’t leave patient names or visitor names visible on a paper check-in log for other visitors to see.
  • Make sure that the sounds from personal therapy sessions doesn’t travel easily into the waiting area.

You should also have a policy in place internally for how visitor records should be handled, stored, and eventually destroyed for privacy.

A Streamlined Check-in Process

Of course, there are other types of visitors to your office than family members.

Some visitors will simply be onsite to make repairs or do physical maintenance, to make a delivery, to attend a business-related meeting, or to attend a job interview, for example.

These visitors also deserve special attention. To make sure your office is prepared for these visitors and that your patients and employees don’t have to sit long and wait or wade through unnecessary paperwork, you need to create a check-in process for each type of visitor.

For example, family members and friends might have to sign an acknowledgement of risks or waiver of liability, but someone who is just on-site to cater lunch might not have the same requirements.

Use our post Why You Need to Categorize Your Business Visitors to help you analyze exactly what kind of visitors come through your facility, and then develop a standard process for each one.

Don’t miss: 3 Ways to Prepare Family Members to Visit Your Treatment Center

The Advantages of a Visitor Management System

Modern visitor management systems were designed to meet the privacy, security and safety needs of offices such as those at substance abuse treatment centers.

With these systems, your visitors check in privately and securely on a tablet. The system will take them through the steps you’ve set up for their visit type, and it will keep a record of their check-in and their signatures. Plus, because the policy approval is bundled into the rest of the check-in process, you can make sure all documents are approved before visitors are admitted.

Visitor management systems also have a sophisticated notification process that lets staff know when visitors have arrived via email or SMS. Staff can access real-time emergency evaluation lists online. The system will also automatically delete personal visitor data after time periods set by managers.

For more information on these features, click here. Or, to see the features for yourself, click here to start your free, 14-day trial of The Receptionist visitor management software.

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