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Capitalizing on a Global Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Shortage to Design a More Functional and Sustainable Isolation Gown

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      Background

      The COVID-19 pandemic caused a global PPE shortage. Across our health system, the type of disposable isolation gowns we were accustomed to using were not as readily available. As a result, we used new varieties of isolation gowns of inconsistent quality. With isolation gowns being the second most used type of PPE at our organization, we used and disposed of almost 3.1 million single-use isolation gowns, amounting to approximately 213 tons of waste in a year. An opportunity arose to design and implement a consistently high quality and reusable isolation gown that would both be protected from supply chain disruptions and reduce our health system's ecological footprint.

      Methods

      After trialing several varieties of disposable and reusable gowns, a substantial amount of feedback was gathered over several months from end-users, Infection Prevention, and Supply Chain. This feedback informed the design of a custom reusable isolation gown that resolves identified problems in functionality, particularly barrier effectiveness, comfort, fit, and ease of donning and doffing. The new design meets current healthcare protection clothing standards and specifications.

      Results

      The custom reusable isolation gowns are being implemented at all hospitals across our health system. There is adequate supply of the reusable gowns, as the product is not susceptible to PPE shortages. There is overwhelmingly positive feedback from end-users on functionality and effectiveness. The gowns are safely laundered according to healthcare standards, resulting in less waste when compared to single-use isolation gowns.

      Conclusions

      PPE shortages leave frontline healthcare workers ill-equipped to care for patients. Design and implementation of a more functional and sustainable product, that is not vulnerable to supply chain disruptions, helps ensure our healthcare workers have the resources needed to protect themselves and others from spreading infectious pathogens.