Molly Fuller Design

Why are designs for medical purposes so medical?

Why are designs for medical purposes so medical?

I wrote this back in 2011 when researching the design of the hospital gown. 

Why is it that most medical devices and products still scream, "I'm medical, ugly and the person using this has a condition, check me out!" Even the most discreet medicate bags screams "I'm medical trying to hide" it's like a game of Where's the Waldo with the medical condition.What are the problems, why are things still the way they are?

Are there no designers on these product's teams? Is there no iterative process? No user testing and feedback looking at aesthetics and quality of life? Are FDA regulation process so terrible that in order to get the stamp of approval it has to be ugly? I don't (well hope) none of these are true. But honestly, why? And what can be done to improve it. If it's because good design might cost more in the manufacturing phase, well let's work with manufacturing and solve it. There's got to be a better way.

This brings me to my biggest pet peeve, hospital gown redesigns. Now please don't misunderstand me, I have fashion degree and I'm all for improving the current backless design. What I find frustrating is all the hospital gown redesign competitions and the lack of change. Even big name fashion designers have redesigned the hospital gown with minuet impact. The typical hospital gown costs about $1.25 on average. The better redesigns cost around $5-$9 to make. Oh the power of money, things won't change with cost differences like that. There's got to be a better way to create a better designed gown at a comparable price.

There was an interesting article on Cleveland Clinic's gown redesign by Diane Von Furstenberg. As I read through the comments they struck me, the sentiments were, I don't want to walk around in a gown that has logos on it and costs more, take those costs and fix other things. This made me stop and think. Ok so we have all these gowns in the hospital already and the man power to change them over all the committees seems like it would take forever. Maybe than the gown isn't really the problem. It's the thing that catches the most flack because all the other areas that need improving seem to overwhelming to tackle too. Maybe I wouldn't notice how terrible the gown was if the bathroom was closer and I didn't have to creep with my back down the hallway like a spy. Maybe if I got to wear a robe during physical therapy I wouldn't be concerned that the wires coming from my body would cause the gown to ride up and reveal even more. Maybe I wouldn't notice the gown if I wasn't waiting so long on the paper on the exam table, shivering. If we can't redesign and implement a small change like a better gown, then why not go big and let's redesign and implement a better experience across the entire system.

Even now in 2018 hospital gown redesigns are being talked about with a less than optimistic view of gowns changing anytime soon. With my work in healthcare experience design I'm more optimistic that the larger systems are trying to change their experiences, however this is no quick or small feat.