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Duct Tape Cuts Time and Costs Related to Contact Precautions

Red duct tape can save healthcare workers time and hospitals money by defining a "red box" just inside patient rooms in which healthcare workers can communicate with patients who are isolated with infections without stopping to don a gown and gloves. The approach extends the "safe zone" and reduces the time spent donning and doffing personal protective equipment (PPE) to see patients on contact precautions.

Janet Nau Franck, RN, MBA, CIC, a consultant and infection preventionist, described her team's findings during an abstract presentation here at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology 2011 Annual Meeting.

Defining a safe zone with red duct tape saved more than 2,700 hours a year and at least $72,000 a year in PPE at Trinity Medical Center, a 504-bed magnet hospital system in the Quad Cities on the Iowa/Illinois border.

"We were quite surprised," Ms. Franck told Medscape Medical News. The potential time and money saved was far more than expected, she said. When initially conceived, the intent of the study was to look for an easier option for staff to more frequently communicate with patients.

The finding comes as a growing trend in the United States requires patients with a history but no active infection with a multidrug-resistant organism, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, to be placed on contact precautions, Ms. Franck said. The red-box approach could help boost infection prevention and control efforts by allowing staff to quickly communicate and assess patients.

In rooms of patients on contact precautions, the floor was marked with red tape in a 3-foot square (or box), extending from the threshold of the door. According to infection-control policy, a gown and gloves had to be worn anywhere in the room outside of the red box.

Usually, healthcare workers must put on PPE before entering an isolated patient's room. But dressing in gowns and gloves before every interaction can be time-consuming, costly, and may pose communication barriers with patients. This study demonstrated that healthcare professionals could safely enter the red-box area without PPE for quick communication and assessment.

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