Despised Hospital Gowns Get Much-Needed Makeovers

Shutterstock/The Atlantic
Shutterstock/The Atlantic

Whether a patient is in the hospital for an organ transplant, an appendectomy or to have a baby, one complaint is common: the gown.

You know the one. It might as well have been stitched together with paper towels and duct tape, and it usually leaves the wearer’s behind hanging out.

“You’re at the hospital because something’s wrong with you — you’re vulnerable — then you get to wear the most vulnerable garment ever invented to make the whole experience that much worse,” said Ted Streuli, who lives in Edmond, Okla., and has had to wear hospital gowns on multiple occasions.

Put another way: “They are horrible. They are demeaning. They are belittling. They are disempowering,” said Camilla McRory of Olney, Md.

Hospital gowns have gotten a face-lift after some help from fashion designers like these from Patient Style and the Henry Ford Innovation Institute.

The gowns are among the most vexing parts of being in the hospital. But if efforts by some health systems are an indicator, the design may be on its way out of style.

The Cleveland Clinic was an early trendsetter. In 2010, it introduced new gowns after being prompted by the CEO, who often heard patient complaints when he was a practicing heart surgeon. That feedback led to a search for something new, said Adrienne Boissy, chief experience officer at the hospital system.

The prominent academic medical center ultimately sought the help of fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg, settling on a reversible gown with a front and back V-neck, complete derriere coverage, and features such as pockets, softer fabric and a new bolder print pattern.

Patients “loved the gowns,” Boissy said. “People felt much more comfortable in the new design, not just physically but emotionally.” In recent years, she added, “hospitals are looking at everything they do and trying to evaluate whether or not it contributes to enhancing the patient experience.”

It’s all part of a trend among hospitals to improve the patient reviews and their own bottom lines — fueled in part by the health law’s focus on quality of care and other federal initiatives. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services increasingly factors patients’ satisfaction into its quality measures, which are linked to the size of Medicare payments hospitals get.

Sometimes the efforts involve large capital improvement projects. But they can also mean making waiting rooms more comfortable, improving the quality of food served to patients or, as in this case, updating hospital gowns.

Ultimately, this focus leads to “a better patient experience,” said John Combes, senior vice president of the American Hospital Association.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: CNN
Shefali Luthra, Kaiser Health News

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