CareAline Products in Danvers worked with healthcare professionals to design an affordable, sustainable isolation gown made for COVID-era care.
Many companies are struggling to safely reopen during a pandemic, and Lever, Inc. is trying to support innovation that enables safe business reopenings across the state.
As part of its COVID-19 Intrapreneur Challenge, Lever, a Massachusetts company dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs, and the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative are awarding $25,000 to one team to help develop a product that will aid with the state’s reopening. This is the second challenge Lever is overseeing, with funding provided by the Innovation Institute and born out of the work by the Massachusetts Manufacturing Emergency Response Team. This round of the Intrapreneur Challenge has nine finalists from cities and towns across the state, including Somerville, Danvers and Woburn. Additional challenges will focus on other products and services that promote health and safety during a pandemic and beyond.
Lever works to support innovation from within companies, as well, hence the term “intrapreneur.” Interested companies can find out more at leverinc.org/covid-19-intrapreneur-challenge
An innovative isolation gown
Danvers-based CareAline Products has been working with healthcare staff for months to develop a reusable isolation gown that is tailor-made for COVID-era treatment.
Kezia Fitzgerald founded CareAline Products in 2012, producing and sharing products that she had developed to make her and her daughter’s lives easier when they were battling cancer together in 2011.
“When COVID hit…we reached out to our hospital partners,” she said. “We wanted to be as helpful as possible to them and they were going through a tough spot. We asked what we could do to help, and the immediate response was that they needed isolation gowns.”
CareAline products are made at a Fall River factory, so Fitzgerald said she had access to fabric and resources when many others did not.
“We thought, ‘what can we do to make an isolation gown that is not only going to be what is needed,’” she said. “We knew they were using what had been not purposed for this situation, and they were learning what was working and what wasn’t. We talked to PPE and infection control specialists and asked where you are seeing issues and what we could do to help improve them. We figured if we’re starting from scratch, we might as well improve them.”
CareAline’s design improves three key areas: chest and neck coverage, wrist and hand coverage, and gown removal. CareAline put a higher collar on the gown so more of the body is protected, and added thumb holes to the cuffs so gloves could slip right over the gown and prevent any wrist exposure. Most isolation gowns are disposable, and the safe way to remove them is to simply tear them off, but Fitzgerald wanted to design a sustainable, reusable option that could also be safely removed. CareAline’s gowns use Velcro closures, instead of hard-to-manage ties.
CareAline is also making the gowns available in smaller quantities, so dental practices, smaller medical practices, and school nurse offices can get them at affordable prices. In fact, CareAline is supplying gowns for the Danvers school system.
“One of the things happening right now, as the state is trying to reopen, is we are seeing there are businesses outside of just hospitals that are going to need to protect themselves from potential COVID patients,” she said. “People will need extra protection, but with the shortage of isolation gowns many places are not getting access to traditional, medical PPE from suppliers, which is where we’re able to help.”