"Embarrassing backside exposure" may soon be a thing of the past—at least when it comes to hospital gowns. "The current patient gown, with the ties in the back, reinforces a power imbalance between patients and caregivers," Dr. Mark Smith, head of the MedStar Institute for Innovation, tells the New York Times, which details a new incarnation of hospital attire created by Care+Wear. The company, which worked with Parsons School of Design students, found itself faced with a challenging task: Design a comfortable hospital gown that provides more coverage for the patient while still allowing medical staff easy access to insert IVs and check vitals.
The result, which retails for $45 on the Care+Wear website, is a cotton-polyester innovation that opens in the front and comes together via a system of snaps and ties that allows different parts of the body to be exposed when needed. Perhaps surprisingly, the hospital gown niche is a relatively untapped market for designers, and it's a big one: CDC stats note 140 million people ended up in the ER in 2014, and hospitals need up to five times that number of gowns for an adequate supply, says Care+Wear CEO Chaitenya Razdan. The gown's backside box pleat (image here) is especially catching people's attention, functioning "like a giant skirt slit that you can open up to have full access," per the company's products chief. The new gown will see an initial test run at one of MedStar Health's Maryland hospitals, expanding to its other nine locations if the gown is a hit. (Read more hospital gown stories.)