Care+Wear Reimagines ‘Healthwear’ MarketBy Mary Wang
When they decided to launch a healthwear company in 2014, neither founders Chaitenya Razdan (CEO, Booth MBA ’11) and Susan Jones (COO) of Care+Wear had a healthcare background, but what they had in common was a desire to help their loved ones. I recently sat down with Chaitenya Razdan to discuss Care+Wear’s journey and his vision for growing this company that’s creating fashionable and dignified wearables for patients.
Innovating out of Adversity
After each of the Care+Wear co-founders witnessed friends and family undergo various forms of medical treatment and had to live with cumbersome Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC) lines, Razdan and Jones sought to make a difference in the lives of the people they loved the most. A PICC line is a thin, flexible tube typically inserted into the arm and is used to deliver intravenous medication for those undergoing frequent, prolonged treatments, ranging from chemotherapy to IV antibiotics. Patients living with a PICC line typically wore protective sleeves over the catheter lines, but the typical offerings were not fashionable and served as a constant reminder of one’s sickness. Hoping to improve the patient experience, Razdan and Jones developed more fashion-forward antimicrobial protective covers and shirts with the help of nurses at Johns Hopkins and University of Virginia (Razdan’s alma mater). Their first product, the Careband is an arm band that is protective, functional, and comfortable. Since its launch, Care+Wear has expanded its product mix, fully embracing its mission to be a dominant player in the healthwear industry.
What is “Healthwear”?
Care+Wear operates in the healthwear market, a hybrid market of what we typically consider to be the healthcare wearables or wearable technology industry and a sub-sector within the fashion industry that addresses challenges created by illness and disability. When asked what the healthwear market was, Razdan defined it as “anything a patient would want to wear.”
Because this industry is emerging and undefined, Care+Wear has the potential to capture an increasing total addressable market, depending on its product offerings. Currently, it operates in a $40B market (see above for Care+Wear’s product mix breakdown), not including wearable technology, which is estimated to reach $34B by 2020. While the apparel market is generally very competitive, some other segments that Care+Wear operate in are not so sophisticated. With both a direct to consumer channel and a sales/business development team focused on building partnerships with healthcare systems, Care+Wear is a clear leader in some of these product segments.
Honestly, our competitors are grandmothers sewing PICC line covers and selling them on Etsy.
– Chaitenya Razdan, Co-Founder and CEO
Bringing Fashion and Dignity to Patients
Care+Wear has demonstrated a strong product development process that involves healthcare providers, designers and patients. Expanding from the Careband, Care+Wear also developed a line of Port-friendly shirts. Most recently, the company partnered with fashion house Oscar de la Renta to launch a hoodie for cancer patients. The Care+Wear x Oscar de la Renta Chest Access Hoodie features a chest port, with two clinically compatible zippers on either side of the chest to provide physicians with easier access to a patient’s treatment area without forcing the patient to fully undress. The hoodie was inspired by Oscar’s own experience as a patient; he was unable to find elegant, practical clothing solutions for patients.
We won’t make a product we won’t be able to produce. We want it to be medically superior and something that patients will want to wear.
– Chaitenya Razdan, Co-Founder and CEO
The kimono-style “dignified” hospital gown is another example of how Care+Wear leveraged the latest fashion trends to target a need in the market. Most of us have probably felt the embarrassment and discomfort of being in a hospital gown. Understanding this customer pain point was the impetus for this new product. Historically, hospital gowns were not designed for patients; they’re designed for healthcare professionals. Over time, hospitals haven’t moved towards a more patient-friendly gown simply due to “bureaucratic inertia” and a habit of focusing more on costs and healthcare provider needs than the patients’ needs. Teaming up with the Parsons School of Design, Care+Wear developed a new robe with a flap to cover patients’ behinds without sacrificing bedpan access and allows for partial exposure through the use of snap buttons and ties. This new robe is currently being tested at MedStar Montgomery in Olney, MD.
What’s Next for Care+Wear?
As Care+Wear expands its product portfolio, its market entry strategy evolved to anchor around sponsors and partners. Although the Careband is a B2C product, the revenue potential for a B2B approach is much greater. Thus, the founders have focused their efforts on finding sponsors to commit to purchasing the first manufacturing run of a new product and working with the right stakeholders to develop new, relevant products for the sponsors. The Oscar de la Renta partnership was just the beginning of this strategy, as Oscar de la Renta committed to donating 500 hoodies to patients at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, where Oscar had received his own treatment. The healthwear company has demonstrated a knack for striking up strong partnerships, co-branding with big names in fashion, philanthropy and healthcare. The newest product launch is a onesie for preemies (babies born prematurely), co-launched with the March of Dimes.
As evident with the launch of the hospital gown and the preemie onesie, Care+Wear aims to sell directly to healthcare systems. The ongoing challenge is of course convincing cash-strapped hospitals to make room in their budgets for new products. However, with the growing trend of customization and focus on treating patients like customers, as you would in any other service industry, the healthcare industry seems poised for change and Care+Wear is well positioned to capture market share.