Red duct tape marks the safe zone in a patient isolation room.

The old joke is that duct tape fixes al­most anything. It's an exaggeration, of course, but who'd have thought you could save money, time and help to improve infection prevention with a roll of the humble tape?

Well, the infection prevention team at Trinity Medical Center in the Quad Cities area of Illinois and Iowa did. The team discovered that using red duct tape to mark a 3-foot-by-3-foot space just inside the entrance of a patient isolation room has multiple benefits.

The area — called the red box — designates a safe zone where clinical staff can enter an isolation room without having to wear personal protective equipment.

Janet Nau Franck, R.N., CIC, infection prevention consultant at Trinity Regional Health System, led a team that studied the impact of the system over a two-year period. They determined that the hospital saved more than 2,700 hours and $110,000 annually by eliminating use of the personal protective equipment staff commonly wear upon entering an isolation room.

"This is an innovative strategy that could be of great value to other hospitals," Franck says. "It costs as much as a roll of tape and yet pays off with significant savings in time, money and increased satisfaction for both patients and staff."

Isolation patients can benefit too. Nurses and physicians may be more likely to check on them because staff can safely enter the doorway area without wearing protective clothing, she says.