About 30% of doctors polled stated that they preferred to wear scrubs, casual attire or had no particular preference when caring for patients. However, more than 60% stated that doctors should wear white coats. ~The Conversation
Physician Attire: Guidance for Choosing a Dress Code – NEJM Catalyst
By Griffin Myers, MD, MBA Oak Street Health, Chicago, Illinois
Imagine you were opening your very own medical practice from scratch. It would be your chance to build a practice just the way you had always wanted. You would have a lot of decisions to make about things like clinic layout, staffing, electronic health record selection, etc.
One seemingly trivial item you would ultimately arrive at is this: what do you and your colleagues wear to work? We’ve had to answer a number of questions like that since starting our practice, Oak Street Health, in 2012. Yet the implications of this particular question were more far-reaching than we had first expected.
In all, 21 of the 30 studies found that patients expressed clear preferences about what they felt doctors should wear, or said that attire affected their perceptions of a physician. In 18 of those studies, formal attire or a white coat was preferred. Four of the seven studies that involved surgery patients reported that attire choice didn’t matter or that scrubs were preferred. The same was true of four of five studies that involved patients receiving emergency care or intensive care. The findings, published in the journal BMJ Open, suggest that a “one size fits all” approach to policies and guidance for doctors won’t work. “In order to better tailor physician attire to patient preferences and improve available evidence, we would recommend that healthcare systems capture the ‘voice of the customer’ in individual care locations, such as intensive care units and emergency departments,” Chopra says. ~Futurity
At first glance, the topic of attire seems, well, superficial — nothing a serious medical professional should consider. But today we practice in an environment with a growing focus on value-based care. What if you were to find out that a physician’s attire is measurably important to metrics of patient satisfaction or even to clinical outcomes? The question of attire now becomes more interesting.