If Mark Berghorn has his way, no one will ever have to go through the experience he and his wife did a few years back. “My wife was in an exam room, and she was covered in this paper patient gown that looked like tissue paper. When that started to fall apart, all we had to cover her up was another piece of paper”, recalls Berghorn.
Berghorn is the President of HealthWear Rental, an Endicott, New York Company that specializes in patient gown and linen rental for medical practices. “So many of our customers tell me that their patients notice a difference”, states Berghorn. “With the medical industry growing at a rapid pace, doctors are now recognizing the role of patient comfort in deciding on which doctor they go to.”
In comparing a cloth gown to a paper gown, a cloth gown is noticeably better. It covers more of the patient, is easier to put on, and looks much better. HealthWear takes everything a step further. There are different styles of gowns, ranging from standard back- tie gowns, to mammography capes. Each gown is a different solid color, which allows practices to use multiple styles of gowns for each application. According to Berghorn, there is one gown that stands above the rest when it comes to customer feedback. “We offer a larger cut gown that fits up to 10XL”, states Berghorn. “Our customers tell me that their larger patients especially appreciate the service. It’s very stressful to be in a doctor’s office and not have a gown to cover you. Also with the gowns being a solid color, a nurse can simply ask for a burgundy gown, instead of announcing that the patient needs an oversize gown. “
When the patient is done with the gown, and any other linen that is used, each item goes into a laundry bag that is picked up by the linen company. Different companies have different methods for handling, but Berghorn is especially proud of HealthWear. “We treat each item the same”, says Berghorn. “A scrub top that comes from the front desk of a dental office is treated with the same precaution that a surgical towel receives.” After sanitization, patient gowns are packaged individually in a recyclable plastic bag, so the next patient that uses it knows it was sanitized specifically for them.
Where the linens don’t go is in the trash. According to a publication put out by the American Reusable Textiles Association, total waste per day range as high as 30 pounds per patient, with an estimated 15 percent of this waste classified as hazardous. At an estimated 6,737 tons of waste a day for US hospitals, the disposable waste amounts to about 2.5 million tons a year in disposable medical waste. In 1988 Congress passed the Medical Waste Tracking Act, which means that all infectious medical waste must be tracked. Companies like HealthWear make this easier for medical practices. “HealthWear gives all of our customers an ‘Exposure Control Plan’, which spells out how we handle and process all of their laundry”, explains Berghorn. “So not only is a linen and patient gown service better for the environment, it costs less, and makes an office manager’s job a heck of a lot easier”.