No Scrubs? Most Derm Patients Prefer their Docs in White Coats

May 31, 2016

Think you're dressing for success?

Think again especially if you are wearing anything other than a traditional white coat when you see patients.

The majority of patients prefer their dermatologists to be dressed in white coats, according to a new article published online in JAMA Dermatology. 

Robert S. Kirsner, MD, PhD, the Chair & Harvey Blank Professor in the Department of Dermatology & Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and coauthors surveyed the attitudes of dermatology patients in three clinical and one university academic center in Miami. In all, 261 were surveyed and 255 participated and completed enough questions to be included in the results.

Participants were shown photographs of physicians wearing business attire (suits), professional attire (white coat), surgical attire (scrubs) and casual attire in three settings: wound care, surgical and medical dermatology. They were asked to indicate which physician they preferred in response to a series of questions.

Professional attire was preferred in 73 percent of responses and it was preferred across all three clinic settings, the study showed. Surgical attire was preferred in 19 percent of responses, business attire in 6 percent and casual attire in 2 percent, according to the results.

The researchers did not study aesthetic patient preferences. But “my guess is that patients might still prefer traditional white coat professional attire," Dr. Kirsner tells Dermwire.

No Scrubs?

Respondents even preferred the physician to wear professional attire when surgically removing a skin cancer, although a greater proportion of respondents did prefer surgical attire in this scenario compared with other ones.

Most respondents said they did not judge a doctor on their attire. Instead, they make decisions based on physician knowledge and skill. “It is possible that patients’ perceptions of their physicians’ knowledge and skill is influenced by the physicians’ appearance, and these perceptions may affect outcomes,” the study concludes.

Future research is needed to define regional, geographic, social and cultural perception of professional attire in other populations, the study authors write.

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