MedStar Health tests new, more modest hospital gowns

Female doctor talking to male patient in hospital bed
MedStar Health is testing a new hospital gown design to improve patient satisfaction. (Image: Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

Hospitals are always on the hunt for ways to improve the patient experience, and a new pilot targets a much-maligned part of a hospital stay: the patient gown.

MedStar Health is testing new gowns designed by New York "healthwear" company Care+Wear and students studying fashion design at New York's Parsons School of Design, according to an article from The Baltimore Sun.

The new gown has a similar design as a bathrobe, allowing for more modesty, but with a number of snaps or ties to allow clinicians needed access to examine patients. A box pleat in the back replaces the commonly-open back of typical gowns, allowing bedridden patients to use bedpans while offering more coverage, according to the article.

MedStar began using the new garments at its MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney, Maryland, last week, and will roll them out at its other hospitals if patients like them. The hospital's president, T.J. Senker, said that gowns are one area where it has yet to do much innovation. 

"This was an opportunity to think about the dignity of the patient," Senker told the newspaper. 

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The gowns also include a number of pockets that can be used to store vital signs monitors or personal items, and are made from fabric that holds up to the washing machine, according to an article from The New York Times. Multiple sizes are delineated by a swatch of fabric sewn into the collar. 

MedStar was introduced to the gowns last summer as part of an innovation incubator, according to an article from the Washington Business Journal. The system has not revealed how much it paid for the pilot, but the gowns are listed for $45 each on Care+Ware's website. 

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Mark Smith, M.D., the system's chief innovation officer and director of the MedStar Institute for Innovation, told the publication that while the redesigned gowns may still resemble what patients are used to, the experience feels different as it gives back "a sense of personhood" to the patient. 

"The current patient gown makes you feel like a nobody," Smith said. "When I tried on this gown, it made me feel good. It made me feel like somebody."