Another Use for Duct Tape: Reduce Hospital Infections

Photo: Woodley Wonder Works/Flickr.

Duct tape can be used to stop leaks, repair furniture and ... reduce infections?

  • This latest use for the ubiquitous fabric-backed tape has been proven by the infection prevention team at Trinity Regional Health System in Iowa and Illinois. No, the duct tape wasn't applied directly to any patients' wounds. Instead, bright red duct tape was placed in lines on the floor near the beds of patients with dangerous infections. The three-foot boxes showed doctors and other health-care providers where they should stand to communicate with patients without first donning personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves. The results of the two-year study at Trinity were striking. They found that it increased the quality and frequency of health-care providers' interactions with patients, which make both hospital staff and patients happier. But it also saved time and money: an amazing 2,700 hours and $110,000 a year in supplies and personnel costs. In addition, the red duct-tape boxes on the floor also improved safety by acting as an added visual cue that a patient with a potentially dangerous infection was in isolation, a status that was previously only visible through door signs. Trinity presented the study, entitled "The Red Box Strategy: An Innovative Method to Improve Isolation Precaution Compliance and Reduce Costs," this week at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology’s 2011 Annual Conference and International Meeting in Baltimore, where it received the association's Blue Ribbon Abstract Award. "This is an innovative strategy that costs as much as a roll of duct tape, and yet pays off with significant savings in time, money and increased satisfaction for both patients and associates," study co-author Janet Franck said in a prepared statement. This concept joins a long list of potential medical uses for duct tape. Two writers who call themselves The Duct Tape Guys say it can be used for wart removal, curing bursitis, supporting twisted ankles and softening the skin on the heels of your feet. Of course, none of these uses are approved by the FDA.