Recent studies show that over the next five to seven years, acute healthcare opportunities will grow at steady rates but with no major increases anticipated. However, the non-acute market is expected to boom, with growth rates in double digits -- expected to be at least 12 to 15 percent. With changes in the national healthcare policy landscape, acute facilities are pushing their customers to non-acute facilities in an effort to free up valuable space and trim costs. And, in an effort to be competitive and put patients at ease, non-acute facilities are moving away from the standard solid blue scrub uniforms for employees and items like paper patient gowns into more comfortable, stylish and re-useable options. This means the opportunities for healthcare uniform suppliers, distributors and commercial laundries are going to be substantial.
The typical everyday solid ceil blue or misty scrub is the uniform of choice of many hospitals both past and present. Although this look is functional and will remain a staple in both commercial and institutional laundries, it has a tendency to be intimidating to patients who are now visiting non-acute facilities at a higher rate.
Today, visiting a non-acute facility can feel more like checking into a hotel or visiting a day spa. Started in the early 2000’s, the trend has grown as non-acute providers search for ways to attract patients in a competitive environment and to enhance patient comfort. In an effort to make patients feel less intimidated in the more relaxed non-acute atmosphere, employers are recognizing the connection of employee attire to their overall brand. As a result, employees are finding themselves searching local uniform shops to seek garments with upgraded styles and designs, with trim detail and new on-trend colors. Opportunities are prevalent for helping the providers build employee scrub programs including color coding by department, custom prints and logo embroidery.
There is also a need for upgraded patient apparel and more specialized items to meet the needs of the specialty setting of the non-acute facilities. Laundries can capitalize on this with simple, cost effective items, such as offering customers a long waffle-knit robe instead of a thin coarse gown or worse, a scratchy ‘non-environmentally friendly’ disposable garment.
Facilities are also recognizing that a patient who is not anxious or apprehensive is more likely to return for follow-up services, based on having an initial positive experience. Ensuring examination gowns and jackets provide proper coverage is an important part of this equation. For example, examination jackets should be of adequate length, providing patient modesty, for males and females alike. Even the color of the gown or jacket can assist with ensuring a positive patient experience. Instead of a sterile white drape, facilities are looking for on-trend colors in patient wear including unisex jewel tones, modern prints and more.
The growth predicted in the non-acute market translates into growth for the commercial laundry and also vendors. By offering garments to these facilities that will enhance their employee image and present a more sophisticated atmosphere for their patients, providers have the opportunity to enhance their revenue streams.
National Healthcare Market Executive - Superior Uniform Group