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April 2002

Patients' Attitudes Regarding Physical Characteristics of Medical Care Providers in Dermatologic Practices

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Dermatology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif (Drs Kanzler and Gorsulowsky), and University of California at San Francisco (Dr Gorsulowsky); and Division of Dermatology, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose, Calif (Dr Kanzler).

Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(4):463-466. doi:10.1001/archderm.138.4.463

Objective  To assess the present attitudes of patients toward physicians' physical attributes.

Design  Written survey offered to all patients seen during a 1-week period.

Setting  Two outpatient dermatologic clinical practices (a county hospital and a private practice).

Participants  Of 315 patients offered the survey, 275 agreed to complete it.

Main Outcome Measures  Opinions regarding physicians' demographic characteristics and opinions regarding desirability of 19 and 18 appearance-related characteristics in male and female physicians, respectively.

Results  Analysis of the responses revealed 25 characteristics that were significantly desirable or undesirable (defined as being selected desirable or undesirable by at least 25% of respondents). Further analysis revealed that patients in a private practice setting typically had more polar opinions about providers' appearances than did patients from a large county hospital. Most patients had no preference with regard to the sex, age, or race of their medical care providers. Age and sex of the patient did not independently contribute significantly to patient preferences, as determined by cross-tabulation analysis. Clinic site (private practice vs county hospital clinic) alone was the sole or most important predictor of preferences in 13 of the 25 significant characteristics.

Conclusions  Several characteristics of providers' dress and grooming were important to patients. There seemed to be little attitudinal change from similar studies performed 2 decades ago. Cognizance of these preferences may facilitate better interactions between medical care providers and patients.