Thursday, May 14, 2009
Down With The Gown
I've never met anyone who thinks the hospital gown is a fine piece of clothing. With it's little ties and completely open in the back, it has to be held shut when you walk and makes the patient feel exposed. The Wall Street Journal even addressed this issue and noted the same style has been used since the 1920s.
Patient gowns are a $76 million dollar industry. I would have thought even higher but since they are durable and can be washed and reused many times, it is actually pretty economical for hospitals. Most clinics use paper gowns that are disposable. The paper gowns make the hospital cloth gowns look like designer couture.
Thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a $250,000 grant was given to the College of Textiles (who knew there was a college of textiles?) to develop a new gown design. Six focus groups have been working on the problem and, despite the universal dislike of the current design, creating a new one has not been easy.
Fancy fabric designs (designer Nicole Miller) just raise the price and don't change the underlying style. Velcro closures don't hold up in the wash. Snaps are difficult for elderly fingers to manipulate and they tear. Floor length sarongs worked for some people but not everyone.
The designers even tried a kimono-type wrap that fits the body. It offered modest protection and looked a little stylish but didn't really work for patients who couldn't be moved. If you are in a hospital with a broken bone or trauma or post op...you aren't able to stand and wrap a form fitting kimono around your body. Fail!
The old saying "Form follows function" seems to apply here. If you have any ideas, the College of Textiles in would be happy to hear from you. The next challenge for "Fashion Runway", perhaps?
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 6:43 AM