Kimberly-Clark launches the Ultra in surgical gowns – Kimberly-Clark Corp
Improved surgical gowns described as soft, comfortable protective from strike through and cost-effective were introduced this spring by Kimberly-Clark Corp., Roswell, Ga., which is looking to market its new Ultra gown for use in outpatient alternate site facilities as well as the traditional operating room market. The company hopes that the Ultra gowns, which were cleared by the FDA as an improvement to the company’s existing gown lines, will lead clinicians out of plastic, film-coated gown materials.
Prior to the release of the new gowns, Kimberly-Clark interviewed 118 surgical team members who participated in initial use-testing at nine hospitals. These clinicians expressed a 5:1 preference for the Ultra gowns, the company said. Preferences for the new gowns were highest in institutions operating under the heaviest schedules and lengthliest, most complicated surgeries, such as orthopedics and cardiovascular procedures. No instances of strikethrough were reported, and more than 90% of the use-test respondents said the new gown was more comfortable than their usual impervious gowns.
The gowns were introduced in March at the Assn. of Operating Room Nurses congress in Atlanta. In mid-April, Kimberly-Clark began selling the first Ultra gowns in the Southwestern U.S. Though the gowns are targeted at hospitals and alternate site facilities, the company has no current plans to reach the physician’s office market with its new product. Product decision makers in this area seem to be a moving target, frequently changing daily. But in general, Kimberly-Clark views O.R. supervisors or managers as key players, though product committees are becoming more common. The influence of group purchasing organization contracts is another key factor.
Kimberly-Clark plans to promote the new Ultra gown at a wide array of large and small trade shows, including American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, American College of Surgeons and the American Society for Healthcare Materials Management. Print ads placements have been running since last September, though a new series is scheduled to begin this month in several journals, an even mix of operating room and materials management publications.
The company has a 120-member sales force, all trained in O.R. product choices, but there are no direct sales to hospitals. Distributors are used solely, and promotions are aimed at distributors such as Baxter Hospital Supply, McGaw Park, Ill., Owens & Minor Inc., and General Medical Corp., both of Richmond, Va. Kimberly-Clark says that the new gowns carried no new price increase to distributors in a product line that has been available since 1992.
The alternate sites and hospital surgical gown market is estimated in the neighborhood of $200 million annually. That figure has increased somewhat in the past few years, but at the same time has shifted to reusable gowns in larger measure than before.
Baxter is the acknowledged leader in the surgical gown market, trailed by runner-up Kimberly-Clark, with Johnson & Johnson Medical, Arlington, Texas, as the number three supplier. Others in the market, such as Boundary Healthcare, Columbus, Miss., and White Knight Health Care, Asheville, N.C., generally play to the custom tray trade. 3M, Minneapolis, joined the fray in 1994, but has not as yet become a major player.
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