The white lab coat is more than an essential tool offering functionality and safety to scientists and medical professionals. It also marks the transition from alchemy and superstitious “science” to the modern era.
Did you know that doctors used to dress all in black before the turn of the 20th century? It’s hard to fathom due to the mental image we have of doctors always inside a white lab coat. But it’s true! The adoption of the white coat by doctors marked the passage from an old way of thinking (where disease was often blamed on external factors like religion) to the modern science of medicine. Feel free to visit this article talking about the story of the white lab coat that explains, specifically, when the white doctor jacket changed how we see doctors.
Apart from being an essential tool, the white lab coat also holds a heavy symbolic value for professionals, patients and families. The proof of the pudding can be found by asking any med school student if they’ve dreamed about putting on that lab coat at their eventual white coat ceremony. It’s that dream (along with plenty of work in the meantime) that enables all science professions to attract such skilled people.
What’s more, the white lab coat also plays a key role in patient treatment and satisfaction. There are plenty of recent studies that have shown that patients feel more comfortable and “looked after” if their doctors wear white. To learn more or read up on those studies, feel free to take a look at this recent Dr. James article.
Back to fabric
In this article, our aim is to take you through time. We’re going to travel to the very near future to tell you about some truly incredible fabric science. It’s in that near future that we will see the evolution of fabric and how it can revolutionize the white lab coat. Some of these concepts might look like they came straight out of a science fiction flick, but we’re giving you the real deal. The truth is, we truly are close to seeing these advancements we talk about become a reality in our daily work.
Are you ready to jump on the time travel train?
The future of lab coats
By now, we’ve already seen how white lab wear has evolved during the last two hundred years. It started being used by scientists first, then doctors later adopted the attire to “rebrand” their image. And since that period, the lab coat’s functionality, protection, and even its aesthetic features have been constantly improving.
One characteristic that has remained constant throughout the history of the white lab coat is its symbolic nature. Like we mentioned, the white attire is so deeply embedded in the psychology of professionals, patients and families that it’s become a necessary component of higher professional standards and client satisfaction. The symbolism of the white lab coat will always be there. However, every other feature of the doctor jacket that we’re familiar with today will probably change in the near future.
Specifically, the current ways we achieve optimal functionality and protection in a lab or medical setting will change in the (not so distant) future, giving their place to smarter, more useful, and more advanced ways. When these changes happen, the white lab coat will become even more vital for daily use of professionals and all the people they serve.
The future of fabric in lab coats
The future of fabric will undoubtedly be smart! It will lead to energy-generating wearables, embedded chips that give access to certain areas, sensors that can measure things, and of course, clothes that can change colors according to lab-specific situations.
The major reason that the fabric of the future will be “smart” (both in white lab coats and wearables) is because we are moving towards apparel that is tech-friendly and able to store and sync with our devices like never before. Before getting deeper into fabric technology, it’s worth shedding some light on tech-friendly design in clothing with all the tech we tend to have on us.
The tech-friendly philosophy is already present in many types of attire to accommodate our new spread of “wearables.” Smartwatches, brain stimulators, training glasses, voice command enabled rings, as well as wearable athletic equipment (that was only available for professional athletes once upon a time) are now massively used and available to everyone.
The same, of course, applies wearables that have been created to carry and safely store devices. All the bags and jackets with small openings that feed headphone wires through to listen to music or talk while keeping your device stored have been available for some years now. Some jackets even incorporated embedded earbuds in the hood fasteners. Moreover, touch-screen capable gloves and screen-cleaning sleeves are also popular.
Perhaps lab coats won’t be adapted to be headphone-friendly in the near future, but the philosophy of safely storing and using technology on your person—in your labcoat—can be taken seriously to skyrocket the efficiency of medical and scientific attire.
Undoubtedly, technology has revolutionized the way we live and, of course, the way we work and how efficient we are. The same applies to laboratory and medical settings. These facilities have already shifted away from binders, notebooks and paper in general, and are moving away from computers in some cases, too. This is not to be “vogue,” either, rather to favor tablets and tech that can be easily transported, are greener, and are generally cheaper in the long run.
A tech-friendly white lab coat can be imagined as the labcoat solution that will allow tablets and similar devices to be stored in pockets and made available at all times. The size of pockets will change to tablet-size with an appropriate fit that allows the most popular devices to be easily available, safely stored, and never held loosely or inconvenient. This change will also normalize pockets in general on all lab coats which is, as we’ve mentioned in other articles, an essential component of functionality for any labcoat-wearing professional regardless of their job or gender.
Now it’s definitely time to talk about smart fabric. Innovations like charging fabric, clothes that change color, and sensors and chips that can be utilized within fabric in many ways could look like more of that science fiction stuff, but in fact are just a short time away for commercial and massive release.
The concept of clothing that can harvest energy and recharge devices has been around the last several years. As the role of technology becomes more and more essential for us with every passing day, the clothes of the future will allow the integration of several types of electronics. Phones will be embedded in clothes so we can listen to music, take calls and get directions. Touch or even pressure sensors will also be available to control our devices with ease. To solve the obvious problem of having to supply and charge these devices, thus, articles of clothing of the future should be able to generate electricity. As a result, your clothes will be your wearable, portable charger, and with the help of smart fabrics, they will be able to transform combinations of solar, static and kinetic energy into usable electricity.
Following the example of the device-friendly lab coat from before, this classic white attire will not only allow you to keep and use your necessary tech on you at all times but also charge it throughout the day without having to wait or use a charger and wires. Of course, this concept goes way beyond tablets. It actually sets the stage for new types of medical or laboratory wearables to be invented and utilized. Imagine how useful an electric stethoscope that can amplify sound and reduce external noise would be in a medical setting. Without direct charging, however, this idea cannot fully be harnessed. The ability to generate electricity from a white lab coat could eliminate the issue of energy altogether and allow for a true revolution to occur in science and medicine.
Woven touch sensors to control a tablet or phone
This technology is already here, and will surely be smarter in the immediate future. Tiny electronic pieces contained in the cuffs of jackets allow for phone and tablet control and will even notify the wearer via lights or vibration.
The idea of this tech incorporated into a white lab coat could drastically increase the productivity of scientists and medical professionals. Just imagine being able to get notified when a collaborator or patient needs you, or when it’s time to visit the emergency room, without even having to pull your device outside of your pocket.
ID identification chips
We’re all familiar with magnetic key cards and how they improve security. Such technology is, of course, used in every hospital and lab. In these settings, there are always areas that are “authorized personnel” only. Other ways of keeping areas secure include having guards, locks, or simply signs. In the case of lock-only entrances, one remaining danger is that anybody can access unauthorized areas by simply getting ahold of a misplaced key or key card.
Minimizing that risk can come in the form of an ID chip embedded into the lab coat a medical professional wears. Instead of using a standard key that can be forgotten or lost, lab coats with chips programmed with specific entry permissions can eradicate the risk of non-authorized individuals entering places they shouldn’t. Apart from that, simply waving your wrist to enter a place can be far quicker and convenient than having to use different keys to access different areas. The future of fabric will definitely incorporate such technology.
Color-changing fabric is already here and will soon revolutionize fashion as a whole by allowing us to personalize our outfits and blend into different surroundings like a chameleon!
This development might appear to be useful only for aesthetics, but it can also have significant applications in a lab or medical setting. Imagine a white lab coat using light indicators to alert you when you’re about to come into contact with a hazardous spill, dangerous germ and bacteria, or similar situations. Although we’re starting to sound like science fiction again, this innovative and potentially life-saving application is a very real possibility for the near future.
Sensors that collect medical data
No one can deny that being in good health is important for every person and every professional. However, working in a lab or medical setting requires extra layers of protection due to the nature of the work. Hazardous chemicals and time spent in places with infectious viruses and bacteria mean labcoat-wearing professionals can benefit from a color-coded alert system.
The lab coats of the future can also have biometric-reading devices to detect physical state of its wearer by identifying unusual movement patterns, for one, standard readings of heart and breathing for another, excessive perspiration, and might even be able to detect developing injuries that haven’t yet been noticed. Lab coats of the future will identify any issue and allow you to take proper measures before it becomes a problem.
Lab coats have always been important for every scientist and medical professional. In the near future and with the help of today’s technology, the lab coat will continue to be an inseparable piece of equipment for laboratories, medical practices and hospitals, able to provide more functionality and protection than ever before.