How a sportswear company helped a Virginia healthcare system focus on reusable dresses

It started with a marketing email sent to avid rowers in the spring of 2020.

JL Racing, a clothing brand well known among rowing enthusiasts, has sought contacts with the healthcare industry.

The family company was trying to make a major turn in the production of reusable medical gowns for health workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The break in sports has prompted the manufacturer of inherited sportswear to speed up plans for a new product he has been working on for the past few years – a reusable medical gown.

Leaders in the Inova health system in Northern Virginia – as many across the country – have struggled to find a reliable source of personal protective equipment for their workers.

“There was a huge shortage of PPE and the types of dresses we bought to make up for our normal dresses were pretty awful,” Michelle Penninger, Inova’s assistant vice president of infection prevention, told Healthcare Dive.

The size was inconsistent among the spare dresses; some were too narrow, the length of the sleeves varied, revealing the forearms, and the belts, which were too long, became dirty after being dragged across the floor.

This was at its peak, when “people wanted protection”, Lucy Hee, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Inovatold the Healthcare Dive.

Inova doctor Rick Place I accidentally read the marketing email from JL Racing. at this time, A place served in a committee tasked with coming up with creative solutions to tackling PPE shortages at Inova.

“I remember receiving my first phone call with such trepidation,” said Jonathan Maloney, La Forma’s chief operating officer, about the initial conversation with Inova’s leaders. La Forma is the brand that the group behind JL Racing created for the dresses.

In early 2020, fraudsters and fraudsters were trying to take advantage of a broken supply chain amid a huge need for protective equipment for hospitals in America. Maloney wondered how to convince the health care system that his company was legitimate without sounding too good to be true.

After initial talks, the leaders of Inova and La Forma decided to work together to create a reusable dress that fits better, is easier to put on and take off, and can be reused up to 100 times.

The two organizations worked closely together, seeking feedback from nurses and dress improvement staff, and sometimes meeting during late-night Zoom conversations. What they came up with is a dress that no longer climbs on the forearm because it has thumb holes, and an easier way to remove the dress thanks to a ripcord-like feature that eliminates the need to ask for help to reach for the tie. the back of the neck.

“The thing that people love most about this is that there is a rope to pull on the left shoulder,” he said. “The feedback we got from many front-line workers was, ‘We’re in the room for hours and it’s not as hot as all the other dresses. It’s really breathable and it feels cool.

The product is already in use at two of Inova’s five hospitals since the first dresses were released at Inova’s leading hospital in February 2021. Inova’s infection control executives will present at an annual industry conference this week, briefing their colleagues on prevention. of infections for their work with La Forma.

The transition to reusability did not come without problems.

There must be a well-thought-out system to use reusable dresses; from storage to laundry and where to put it on the appliance for the fastest access. It all took time to smooth over, he said.

The health system did not share financial figures, but said it had prevented 213 tonnes of waste from ending up at the landfill. They typically used 3.1 million disposable dresses each year.

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