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

JL Racing, a clothing brand well-known among rowing enthusiasts, requested industry contacts in the health field.

The family company was trying to take a major step forward in the production of reusable medical gowns for healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pause in sports has prompted the old sportswear maker to speed up plans for a new product it has been working on for the past few years, a reusable medical gown.

Inova health officials in Northern Virginia, like many across the country, have struggled to find a reliable source of personal protective equipment for their workers.

“There was a huge shortage of personal protective equipment and the types of gowns we put on to replace our regular gowns were terrible,” Michelle Peninger, assistant vice president of infection prevention at Inova, told Healthcare Dive.

The sizes of interchangeable dresses did not match; some were too tight, sleeve lengths varied to expose the forearms, and straps that were too long became soiled after being dragged across the floor.

This happened at peak times when “people wanted protection”. Lucy He, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Inovatold Healthcare Dive.

Inova Doctor Rick Place accidentally read a marketing letter from JL Racing. At that time, Place served on a committee tasked with finding creative solutions to address the PPE shortage at Inova.

“I remember that first phone call with such awe,” Jonathan Maloney, COO of La Forma, said of the first conversation with Inova leaders. La Forma is a brand created by the JL Racing group for dresses.

In early 2020, scammers and scammers tried to take advantage of a disrupted supply chain amid a huge need for protective gear for American hospitals. Maloney wondered how to convince the healthcare system that his firm was legitimate without looking too good to be true.

After initial conversations, 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, soliciting feedback from nurses and staff to improve the gown, occasionally meeting during nightly Zoom calls. They came up with a dress that no longer rides up on the forearm thanks to thumbholes, and an easier way to get the dress off thanks to a ripcord-like feature that eliminates the need to ask for help to reach for a tie. back of the neck.

“What people love most about it is that it has a drawstring on the left shoulder,” he said. “The feedback we’ve received from many front line workers is, ‘We’re in the room for hours and it’s not as hot as all the other bathrobes. She really breathes and is cool in her.

The product is currently being used in two of Inova’s five hospitals after the first gowns were launched at Inova’s flagship hospital in February 2021. Inova’s infection control leaders will speak at the annual industry conference this week, briefing their infection prevention peers on their work. with La Form.

The transition to reuse was not without problems.

There should be an elaborate system for the use of reusable gowns; from storage to washing and where to place on your device for the fastest access possible. It all took time to iron out, He said.

The health system did not share financial data, but said it had prevented 213 tons of waste from ending up in landfill. They typically used 3.1 million disposable gowns each year.

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