3. Limit patient contact to only when medically necessary.
"Additional contact with patients only creates more opportunities for transmission," Barnes says.
Of course, it's up to hospitals to ensure that changing the way their workers interact with patients doesn't affect quality of care—something Barnes cites as the most significant issue related to minimizing interactions between patients and healthcare workers.
"We don't mean to promote the idea that having no interaction is ideal," he says. "Of course, each patient should receive an appropriate level of care to improve his or her health outcomes. The good news is that our approach supports the concept of care continuity, because seeing the same healthcare workers is the best strategy for minimizing transmission."
Barnes' team's approach is also in step with the recent study in Health Affairs that found bumping nurse staffing levels by three nurse hours per patient day provides a demonstrable and marked reduction in hospital readmissions.
"This approach actually supports a sparse social network structure, as long as the increased time is dedicated by the same nurse to the same assignment of patients," Barnes says. "If, for example, a new nurse was coming in and interacting with multiple patients across the unit, this could create new connections between patients and put previously protected patients at risk for acquisition."