Background We lack data on how physicians can instill confidence in patients.
Objectives We aimed to determine whether dress style (professional white coat or formal, semiformal or casual attire) affects confidence in the physician by patients (children, teenagers, adults) with dermatology complaints consulting in the hospital or private practice.
Methods Design. Descriptive prospective cross sectional study carried out from July 1, 2008 to July 1, 2009. Setting. Outpatients in the department of dermatology of a French tertiary care hospital, and two dermatological private consulting rooms. Participants and design. Consulting patients were ≥ 7 years and classified as children 7-11 years old, accompanying parents, teenagers (12–17 years), and adults ≥ 18 years consulting alone. Subjects viewed two iconographic boards containing 4 photographs in a random order of a male physician on 1 board and a female physician on the other board in 4 different dress styles: professional (white coat and stethoscope), formal (shirt and tie for men), semiformal, and casual (T-shirt, jeans). Subjects then completed a questionnaire asking them to rate, on a scale of 0-10, their confidence in the physicians portrayed and answered whether they considered physician dress important. Main outcomes and measures. The main outcome was subjects’ ranking of photos of physicians by dress style, according to the confidence they felt. For children 7-11 years old, we considered the frequency of the chosen dress style. The secondary outcome was whether physician dress was important to patients.
Results We included 329 patients. Children at the hospital most frequently chose the photo of the physician, both male (62%) and female (64%), with the white coat. Teenagers’ choices were professional dress, then semiformal, formal, and casual attire. Accompanying adults and adults consulting alone had the same ranking.
Conclusions In France, patients of all ages who consult for dermatology complaints in hospital and in private practice have the most confidence in a physician who wears a professional white coat.