When developing wearable medical technology, the technology’s interaction with the body entirely depends on how the wearer uses it. Wearable home health-tech is on the rise – especially for the baby-boomer generation – and new garments, holsters, pouches, and other wearable textile solutions are popping up everyday. You must actively consider the material selection for the wearable device as an important decision. There are many factors that contribute to the textile decision for your medical garment, but following this guide can help you ensure your textile will be the right choice.
While sourcing the right fabric for any custom sewn product is important, Material Selection should be a focus in medical garment development due to the fact that it has direct interaction with the human body. Biocompatibility is a top priority. In the case of choosing fabric for a garment meant for around-the-clock wear (or even daily use). Like a remote ECG or another type of monitoring device, you must avoid materials that could cause any negative side effects. These effects could range from minor skin irritations to major issues. Major issues include providing inaccurate data or diagnostics. This would be detrimental to the wearer and their treatment. This would also lead to a complete overhaul of the product. You would be starting from scratch to develop with new material. This is not only a costly fix for you, but could also tarnish your products reputation.
Another important factor is wearers comfort. This is especially important in extended use devices such as an LVAD holster, a constant monitoring vest, etc. Patient comfort – in terms of both the look and feel of the product – is important. Doing a short-run field test can help you get input from wearers as they use the garment through their day-to-day activities, and their input can also aid in refining the design and making material choices. While conducting your field test, you will also be able to analyze product performance and durability. You may have found a great biocompatible fabric. However, is it durable enough for extended use and daily wear? Also, consider if the fabric can be sewn, cut, and formed into the garment’s shape without damaging the textile. This could also be a crucial deciding factor.
Finding the “sweet spot” between a durable and biocompatible fabric is key to the success of a medical garment. Depending on the garment and its purpose, you might need to consider other factors. These can include added durability for rigorous use or the ease of integrating sensors into the textile. The priorities of your wearable should be accuracy, ease of application, and comfort.