While developing wearable medical tech, the technologies interaction with the body is entirely dependent on how it is worn. 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. An important decision that has to be considered is the material selection for the wearable device. 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 a garment that would be worn around the clock (or even once-daily use), such as a remote ECG or another type of monitoring device, choosing a fabric that could induce any sort of negative side effect when touching skin for long periods of time (as small as an irritation or as major as providing inaccurate data, diagnostics, etc.) would be detrimental to the wearer and their treatment. This would also lead to a complete overhaul of the product, and 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, but will it be durable enough to withstand extended use and daily wear? The ability for the fabric to be sewn, cut, and formed into the shape of the garment without damage to the textile or future potential damage to the final garment can be a deciding factor as well.
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, there may be other factors brought into play, such as added durability for rigorous use or the ease of sensor integration in the textile. The priorities of your wearable should be accuracy, ease of application, and comfort.