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Original Investigation
August 2016

Patient Preference in Dermatologist Attire in the Medical, Surgical, and Wound Care Settings

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
  • 2Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Florida International University, Miami
  • 3University of Miami, Miami, Florida
  • 4Division of Biostatistics, Department of Health Services and Research, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(8):913-919. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.1186

Importance  Patients’ perceptions of their physician can affect subjective and objective outcomes. Physician attire influences patients’ perceptions of their physician and consequently may affect patient outcomes.

Objective  To determine patient preferences for different types of dermatologist attire in dermatology medical, surgical, and wound care clinics. We hypothesized that patients in the dermatology medical setting would prefer professional attire, while patients in the dermatology surgical and wound care setting would prefer surgical scrubs.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This study analyzed responses to a cross-sectional, anonymous survey by English-speaking dermatology patients (aged 18 years or older) at general, surgical, and wound care clinics in an academic center in Miami, Florida. Patients who could not read and understand the survey were excluded. Participants received pictures of a physician wearing business attire, professional attire, surgical attire, and casual attire, and responded by indicating which physician they preferred for each of 19 questions. Frequencies of responses were recorded, and χ2 and regression tests were performed.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Response frequencies.

Results  Surveys were administered to 261 persons, and 255 participated and completed enough of the questions to be included in the outcome analyses (118 men, 121 women, 22 unknown [did not answer sex question]), mean (SD) age, 56.3 (18.6) years; about 49% of those who reported their sex were men; 56% were Hispanic; and 85% were white. Approximately 72% of respondents held a college degree or higher. About 63%, 24%, and 13% of respondents were medical, surgical, and wound care dermatology patients, respectively. Roughly 73%, 19%, 6%, and 2% of cumulative responses were for professional, surgical, business, and casual attire, respectively. Respondents who received a picture of a black male or black female physician were more likely to exclusively prefer professional attire: unadjusted odds ratios (ORs) 3.21 (95% CI, 1.39-7.42) and 2.78 (95% CI, 1.18-6.51), respectively, compared with respondents who received a picture of a white male physician. Nonwhite and unemployed respondents were less likely to prefer professional attire exclusively: ORs, 0.28 (95% CI, 0.1-0.83) and 0.28 (95% CI, 0.08-0.99), respectively. Respondents preferred professional attire in all clinic settings, though respondents in the dermatology surgery clinic were less likely to prefer professional attire compared with respondents in the medical dermatology clinic: race-adjusted OR, 0.74 (95% CI, 0.56-0.98). Wound care and medical dermatology respondents preferred professional attire comparably.

Conclusions and Relevance  In this study, most patients preferred professional attire for their dermatologists in most settings. It is possible that patients’ perceptions of their physicians’ knowledge and skill is influenced by the physicians’ appearance, and these perceptions may affect outcomes.