What might the future hold for gloves?

May 24, 2022

Gloves may seem like tried-and-true, stock PPE with few ways (if any) to improve on their application, donning ability, durability, flexibility, usability, etc.

But if funding were no object and without revealing any corporate trade secrets, how might manufacturers improve what otherwise is an essential but usefully designed product? What sort of features and benefits would emerge among these new models?

Examples could include the use of new materials such as for dipping or spraying hands with some type of liquid or aerosolized protective material that solidifies with the consistency of rubber but is both healthy and safe for the wearer and those touched. It also could be applying a completely new type of safe material for easier donning or extending uses by infusing gloves with such materials as copper, silver or Microban or even making gloves “smart” in some way with some type of embedded tracking mechanism.

Healthcare Purchasing News asked experts to stretch the possibilities.

“The sourcing of raw materials is part of the supply challenge in the glove market. The development of new raw materials in multiple locations that are easier to source and manufacture would improve the supply of this essential product. Geographic diversity is a hedge against risk of weather, political and other potential causes that disrupt manufacturing and supply.”

Margaret Steele, Senior Vice President, Med Surg, Vizient

“We believe innovation across medical glove and PPE product categories comes in many forms. Someday, our current U.S. healthcare infrastructure, clinical protocols and standards, and the end-user organizations themselves, may be ready for truly revolutionary new approaches to infection control. Such new approaches must also be reliably operationalized with minimal variance and consistently high outcomes, across systems with tens or hundreds of thousands of clinician end users. However, until that time, the current industry standard methods for glove and PPE selection, donning/doffing, and all associated protocols and barrier performance specifications specific to each setting of use, will very likely remain the reference practices and market framework. 

“Tronex Healthcare sees our charter and responsibility to the market and to all our current and future potential customers, as the relentless commitment to deliver a market-leading superior product, through employing progressive material formulations and construction, and manufactured by the most advanced state-of-the-art production lines and strict quality processes. Through the extreme global market dynamics impacting and endured by all over the past two years, Tronex’s added value innovation remains to deliver mission-critical supply performance through a vast and diversified global production and supply base, with high resiliency and contingency already fully integrated into every stage of our inbound global supply chain. Tronex is also continually developing emerging product, packaging, and material technologies that may someday further advance gloving and PPE products from the standpoints of sustainability, microbial control, and clinical performance, and will absolutely be prepared to deliver those innovations when the market is ready.”

Edmund Tai, Vice President, Healthcare, Tronex

“The scale of allergic contact dermatitis among surgeons and nurses.According to a 2020 survey conducted by SERMO, the global network of healthcare professionals, a shocking level of irritant and allergic contact dermatitis among surgeons and nurses working in the U.S. healthcare system. Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis include redness, cracked skin, sores, open lesions and scabbing.
  • 31% of surgeons and nurses surveyed had suffered from a skin reaction in the operating room
  • 60% of those had experienced a skin reaction in the last year
  • 28% of surgeons had been forced to change gloves during a procedure due to a skin reaction

“Instances of Type IV allergic contact dermatitis place surgeons and nurses at considerable harm and cause severe burdens on hospitals and health systems with lost productivity and occupational treatment costs. The cost of treating a single clinician with a glove-related allergy is estimated to be between $1,955 and $11,184 per year. Medical professionals have a growing need to be free from worry about experiencing skin reactions from chemical accelerators.

“The latest addition to the industry-leading Biogel product line, Biogel PI UltraTouch S surgical gloves, have been designed with a new formula that is shown to minimize the risk of allergic contact dermatitis in the operating room and, is thus, more skin-friendly. Biogel PI UltraTouch S gloves are made without the chemical accelerators known to cause allergic contact dermatitis.* Biogel PI UltraTouch S gloves have been cleared by the FDA to reduce the potential for sensitizing users to chemical additives.

Corinne Schmid, Senior Director, Gloves, Mölnlycke

“While some may view the exam glove category as a commodity, at Cardinal Health, we know that gloves play a critical role in protecting healthcare providers. We are focused on providing a complete portfolio of exam gloves that [healthcare professionals] can depend on, when patients depend on them. Risk levels vary depending on the clinical interaction. Our portfolio and new product launches are designed to offer protection and resiliency of supply while also effectively managing cost.”

Rosie Squeo, RN, Senior Clinical Consultant, Business & Clinical Optimization, Cardinal Health

“We believe glove design has been an evolution, and they can absolutely be improved. A way to make them puncture- and tear-proof while maintaining all of their features [application, donning ability, durability, flexibility, usability] would be ideal. The primary goal of [personal protective equipment] is to prevent contamination, and contamination typically occurs through breaks and misuse of the PPE.”

The ideal glove [if funding/money were no object] would:

  • be allergen friendly
  • be easily removable from the box
  • be one-size-fits-all and allows for stretch
  • never tear or puncture
  • be able to kill bacteria and viruses on contact
  • be sweat absorbing
  • be textured just enough to not prevent drag but improve grip
  • be environmentally friendly and biodegradable
  • be easy to don if hands are wet
  • change color when it comes into contact with any chemicals
  • protect against all hazardous drugs and chemicals
  • be super thin to allow for feel
  • have great elongation and flexibility
  • taste great for dental purposes

Michelle Schwebel, RN, Clinical Director, Marketing and Product Development, S2S Global, a Premier Inc. company

1.                 Politiek K. et.al. Systematic review of cost of-illness studies in hand eczema. Contact Dermatitis 2016.