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[3 min read] Does physician attire affect patient experience?

Does physician attire affect patient experience? Studies have proven that improving the patient experience leads to higher patient satisfaction, increased adherence to treatment and clinical outcomes. Whether a physician’s attire can affect the patient experience is unknown, so a study examined patient perceptions, expectations and preferences regarding physicians’ dress.

Researchers in the US conducted a questionnaire-based study of 4,062 patients across 10 academic hospitals. The questionnaire included photographs of a male and female physician dressed in seven different forms of attire. Patients were asked to rate the provider pictured in various clinical settings.

Preference for attire was calculated as the composite of responses across five domains (knowledgeable, trustworthy, caring, approachable and comfortable) via a standardised instrument. Secondary outcome measures included variation in preferences by respondent characteristics (e.g, gender), context of care (e.g, inpatient vs outpatient) and geographical region.

Of 4,062 patient responses, 53 per cent indicated that physician attire was important to them during care. Over one-third agreed that it influenced their satisfaction with care.

Compared with all other forms of attire, formal attire with a white coat was most highly rated (p=0.001 vs scrubs with white coat; p<0.001 all other comparisons).

Important differences in preferences for attire by clinical context and respondent characteristics were noted. For example, respondents older than 65 years preferred formal attire with white coats while scrubs were most preferred for surgeons.

The study concluded that patients have important expectations and perceptions for physician dress that vary by context and region.

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Source: Petrilli CM, Saint S, Jennings JJ, et alUnderstanding patient preference for physician attire: a cross-sectional observational study of 10 academic medical centres in the USABMJ Open 2018;8:e021239. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-021239

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