By Nahla El Gendy
A smart — and comfortable — hospital gown to track a patient’s vital signs
It all started three years ago when Mariam Ibrahim ’19, graphic design graduate, fell off her beach buggy and was diagnosed with brain hemorrhage, a broken collarbone and a compressed spinal cord.
“My doctors had no idea if I was going to live for the next two or three days, so they asked me to leave the Intensive Care Unit to say goodbye to my family and friends,” said Ibrahim.
While taking her out of the ICU, Ibrahim’s sister had to cover her back, which was bare due to the open-back hospital gown she was wearing. “That was too hilarious for me to understand,” said Ibrahim. “I was under the effect of anesthesia, so I took things lighter than I should have, but I thought this was totally impractical.”
Contrary to the doctors’ predictions, Ibrahim recovered, and two years later, she started her graphic design thesis project at AUC. Her main drive was to design a comfortable and practical medical product for patients. “I wanted to see how far graphic design can help in the medical field,” she said.
With the support of her own doctors, Ibrahim worked on designing a smart medical gown, Hale. derived from the words exhale and inhale, the name hale means strong and healthy. “It seemed like a good fit for my project, as I didn’t really want to brand it. I just wanted to have a suitable name for it,” said Ibrahim.
driven by her belief that a hospital gown should appeal to both the patient and medical personnel, Ibrahim conducted multiple focus groups in Egypt with patients, nurses and doctors — formally and informally — in order to come up with a product that caters to their needs and improves a patient’s sense of well-being in the hospital.
“During my hospital stay, I had a lot of problems with the gown itself,” Ibrahim reflected. “I had a problem with the gown’s texture, sheerness and functionality. the nurses had to take off my gown for the simplest of procedures, which just didn’t make any sense to me.”
Ibrahim developed Hale as a series of garments equipped with sensors to track a patient’s vital signs while in the hospital. Hale consists of three different gowns, covering the three stages of patient recovery in relation to the notion of dress. the first gown is disposable to be used before, during and immediately after surgery, and the second is the launderable gown, designed for stable patients. Finally, the upgraded sensor gown tracks the patient’s blood oxygen level, body temperature, position and pulse, relaying the readings onto a web application that updates every 10 to 30 seconds, depending on the Wi-Fi signal and changes in readings. An average reading is then recorded, and a history page is available to map out the vital signs throughout the day. When the readings are outside of the normal range, a registered health care professional is notified via email.
Ibrahim’s project was featured on CNN and at the Global Grad Show in Dubai. designed under the supervision of professional doctors and nurses in accordance with regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Hale is designed to meet the needs of health care professionals while considering the patient’s psychological state.
“Hale tries to address issues with the currently intrusive health monitoring system,” Ibrahim said. “it makes the patient feel more in control and the doctor satisfied by the continuous monitoring of vital signs.”