While Barnes says he is not personally aware of hospitals that are using a social network analysis approach to limit contact, there are many hospitals using gloves and gowns to minimize direct contact with patients.
"There are also some studies looking at nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, but my impression is that they are inconclusive at this point," he says. "The challenge with these studies is data collection and integrity. Our advantage using simulation mitigates this challenge because we can experiment directly with these experimental factors and observe the effects."
Moving forward, it would be a helpful exercise for hospitals—particularly intensive care units—to start mapping the social networks within individual units, and potentially across multiple units that have a high degree of interaction, Barnes says.
"With this map, hospital administrators and infection control practitioners could analyze whether or not there are simple changes they can make to reduce the density of connections," he says.