Mapping Patient-Nurse Interactions Could Minimize Infections

Marianne Aiello, October 28, 2013

Research findings call on hospital leaders to take a deeper look at how staff—primarily nurses—interact with patients, to determine a way for patients at highest risk for infection to come into contact with fewer workers.

These days, the term 'social networking' is practically synonymous with 'social media,' calling to mind buzzing Twitter alerts and updating Facebook statuses. But by analyzing a hospital's social network, in the traditional sense of the phrase, researchers have discovered a new model that may help to minimize infections.

The study, developed by two researchers from the University of Maryland and one from American University, created computer models that simulated interactions between patients and healthcare workers to determine if the interactions were a source for spreading multi-drug resistant organisms.

To do this, the researchers manipulated and tracked the dynamics of the social network in a mid-Atlantic hospital's intensive care unit. They focused primarily on interactions between patients and healthcare workers, as well as on multiple competing factors—staff coverage for meetings, break, and sick leave—that can affect the transmission of infection.

Such transmissions strike one in 20 inpatients, causing tens of thousands of deaths and training billions of dollars from the national healthcare system annually, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.


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