What do you think influences patients’ reactions and preferences regarding physician attire?

This is difficult to quantify. My guess, at least as it affects the US, is that storybooks and popular media – magazines, television shows, or movies – that portray physicians suggest what a doctor should look like to a substantial portion of the population. Hospital-based physicians are often wearing white coats with formal attire and a stethoscope, and surgeons and emergency room physicians tend to be portrayed in scrubs. This then becomes an expectation. But we did not research specifically where our respondents’ preferences came from or their rationale in how they came to their expectations.

What take-home messages does your research have?

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The patient-physician relationship is critical to good health outcomes. Since physician attire is important to patient satisfaction, it is a modifiable way to potentially improve that relationship and improve patient safety and clinical outcomes.

A variety of factors, such as geography, care setting, patient age, and other variables play a role in patient preference of physician attire. As such, physicians and healthcare systems cannot take a “one size fits all” approach and must really tailor their dress code to those factors whenever possible.

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This article originally appeared on MPR