"We all want to reduce nosocomial infections (but) I don't think that State Legislatures are in the best position to know what will work," Fierer wrote.
Infectious disease officials are adamant that handwashing repeatedly in between patient encounters is the best way to prevent infection.
"I'm not saying this is ridiculous or crazy, and it might be worth looking at, but certainly today there's not the evidence to legislate it," Ann Marie Pettis, director of infection prevention at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, said in a telephone interview.
Pettis said there are many more important actions providers should take to minimize transmission. Pointing to jewelry and neckties as harbingers of nosocomial infection, she said, "is really a red herring" that distracts from more important measures, such as basic hand hygiene.
Even so, about a handful of hospitals around the country have adopted policies that strongly urge providers to work "bare below the elbow," especially if they've had a cluster of infections, said Pettis, who also is a spokeswoman for the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.
"It may be that such clothing provokes clinicians to be more diligent about washing their hands, because they aren't worried about getting their sleeves or cuffs wet," she said.
"But where does it all stop?" she asked. "What about name tags? Fortunately, germs aren't jumping off of our clothing onto the patient. The germ has to get onto an at-risk area such as a wound. Or a patient would have to ingest the organism, or germs would have to contaminate sputum. I'm hardpressed to see how clothing is a big factor in that."