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To Wear or Not To Wear – That is the Question

Does a patient’s prognosis depend on what the provider wears during their encounters? Previous studies have suggested that patients’ perceptions of their provider affect outcome and have been linked to improvement (or lack thereof) in areas such as quality of life, depression, hemoglobin A1c levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Part of this perception is based on provider’s attire and consequently, it is possible that what a provider wears could affect patient outcomes. Several studies have focused specifically on patient preference in their dermatologists’ attire. Those studies suggested that adult respondents preferred their providers in white coats, albeit only slightly. A French study found that patients preferred professional attire.

A recent study published in JAMA Dermatology sought to determine patient preference in dermatologist attire in the outpatient dermatology medical, surgical, and wound care settings. The authors hypothesized that patients in the medical setting would prefer the white coat, while patients in the surgical and wound care settings would prefer scrubs. Respondents were shown photos of their providers in different attire and asked which would they prefer “to be their dermatologist,” “to cut out skin cancer,” “for a dermatologic emergency,” and other questions. Each series of photos featured 1 physician (white male, white female, black male, or black female) wearing business attire (suit and tie), professional attire (white coat and tie), surgical attire (scrubs), and casual attire (t-shirt and jeans).

The results showed that consistent with previous studies, across the three settings, respondents largely preferred professional attire (white coat and tie). Respondents even preferred the physician to be wearing professional attire “to cut out a skin cancer.” The authors do note that when questioned, respondents stated that they did not judge their physicians by their attire, but rather by their knowledge and skill.


Byline: Martha L. Sikes, MS, RPh, PA-C

Posted: June 27, 2016

Source: JAMA Dermatology
Adapted from the original article.

[Image: Shutterstock]

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