Down with the Gown!

Dec 1, 2006, 12:12 AM, Posted by Rosemary Gibson

It’s something that is universally derided. The flimsy and immodest gown that patients are given when they visit the doctor or hospital. A mid-level manager at a hospital acknowledged, “Yeah, the gowns we give to patients are rags.” While hospitals have become more high-tech, the patient gown has remained basically the same. I think of it as a “cadaver cloth” because it must have been designed for people who would never get up and walk around in it!

About two years ago, the Pioneer Team solicited ideas on “what needs to be retired in health care?” and it was clear that the patient gown is surely something that needs to be retired. The idea grew out of a conversation I had with a former hospital CEO who is passionate about ensuring the dignity of patients.

To make a large scale change, all the participants in the supply chain for gowns need to be engaged. Manufacturers, distributors, purchasers, hospital supply services, along with clinicians, and patients – all have requirements that must be met if a more respectful gown can be designed and brought to market for large scale use.

So we funded the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University beginning in late November to understand these requirements. This work can set the stage for stimulating the private market to produce a garment for patients that respects their dignity.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.