Science-- there's something for everyone

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yet another use for duct tape

Doctors at the Trinity Medical Center in the Quad Cities on the Iowa /Illinois border have found a new use for duct tape.  They use duct tape to create ‘Red Box’ safe zones to facilitate communication with isolation patients.  The new system, presented at the Annual Educational Conference and International Meeting of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, is saving the hospital $110,000 and 2,700 hours each year.

Some hospital patients must be isolated for either the patient’s or the caretaker’s safety.  They might be severely immunocompromised, or extremely contagious.  In either case, health care professionals must don gloves and gowns each time they enter such a patient’s room, even if they only need a brief consultation with the patient. 

So how does duct tape figure into this?  The researchers used red duct tape to create a three-foot square box on the floor at the threshold of each contact-restricted patient’s door.  Health care professionals within this Red Box zone can safely speak to patients without needing to put on masks or gloves.  Of course, more prolonged assessments or any procedures that required touching patients would still require a health care professional to suit up.  But often that type of close contact is not necessary.

Aside from saving time and money, the new system has some additional benefits.  Patients may feel more comfortable speaking to someone who is not wearing a mask.  Also, the red duct tape on the floor serves as an additional cue to warn anyone entering the room to take contact precautions.