Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Petrilli: Our team took note of the broad spectrum of physician attire that was worn in health care settings. We found a lack of specific guidance with regards to “appropriate” physician attire. Then we began to find anecdotal evidence that physician attire may be an important early determinant of patient confidence, trust and satisfaction. Studies have shown that patients are more compliant with their medications and treatment regimens when they perceive their doctors as being competent, supportive and respectful. Therefore, given the increasingly rushed patient–physician encounter, the ability to gain a patient’s trust and confidence are highly desirable. We hypothesized that if physician attire matched patients’ preferences and expectations, it would improve the overall patient experience.
Our findings supported our hypothesis. In general, we found that people prefer their physicians dress on the formal side — and definitely not in casual wear. Doctors of either gender in suits, or a white coat, are more likely to inspire trust and confidence. But fashion takes a back seat when it comes to emergency, surgical or critical care, where data show clothes don’t matter as much — and patients may even prefer to see doctors in scrubs. In general, Europeans and Asians of any age, and Americans over age 50, trusted a formally dressed doctor more, while Americans in Generation X and Y tended to accept less-dressy physicians more willingly.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Petrilli: As physicians, we look for evidence based solutions in our clinical practice. Similarly, we should employ the same ideals when we decide what clothes to wear when seeing patients. 90% of the studies we reviewed showed that patients have a preference for more formal attire or no preference for their physician’s attire. Therefore, given this low risk, high reward proposition, we recommend that health care systems adopt a dress code that directs physicians to wear formal attire.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Petrilli: Currently, our team is preparing to launch our own multi-center, international study. We will survey patients in outpatient general medicine and specialty clinic waiting rooms, and inpatient medical units. Hospitals in three countries have signed on to participate to date, making it the largest study of its kind. Using a standardized protocol and survey across multiple regions, we will be able to more effectively quantify how patients’ views of physicians change based on what they’re wearing, and where they’re providing care. It will also evaluate how attire might affect patients’ trust in what their doctor says or recommends.
MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Christopher Michael Petrilli MD (2015). Should Hospitals Adopt Dress Code For Physicians? MedicalResearch.com