How a Roll of Duct Tape Can Improve Communication

June 27, 2011

A 504-bed midwestern health system estimates it can save up to 2,700 hours and $110,000 a year by creating a safe-zone for communicating with isolated patients. Called the “Red Box”, a three-foot square made by putting red duct tape on the floor, the safe zone allows healthcare professionals to communicate with patients with restricted access due to isolation or other contact precautions without having to put on personal protective equipment (PPE).

The research about the Red Box strategy was presented in an abstract form at the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) 38th Annual Educational Conference and International meeting.

Normally, healthcare professionals are required to put on appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment before entering the room of a patient under isolation. Having to dress in gowns and gloves is not only time consuming, but expensive. It also creates a communication barrier with patients.

The research was conducted by the infection prevention team of the Trinity Medical Center in the Quad Cities on the Iowa/Illinois border.  The study revealed that by creating and utilizing the safe zone, hospitals were able to save time and money (from the lack of need for gowns and gloves), and improve the quality and frequency of communications between patients and healthcare professionals providing for their care.

In a satisfaction survey, 67% of healthcare workers said that the Red Box lessened barriers when communicating with patients. Also, 79.2% reported that the Red Box saved time in not having to put on and remove PPE. The same number said healthcare workers could assess and communicate with patients more easily. The box also serves as an additional visual cue to remind HCPs that they are entering an isolation room, which is usually only indicated by a sign outside the patient’s room.

Read the APIC Press Release about the Duct Tape Strategy: Innovative Duct Tape Strategy Saves Hospitals Time, Money; Improves Infection Prevention. APIC. June 27, 2011.

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