A study in the Journal of Obstetric and Gynecology found that “women experiencing new encounters with obstetricians and gynecologists were equally satisfied with their physicians regardless of their attire. When analyzed in conjunction with physician attire, there were no differences in satisfaction for any subgroup of patient or physician characteristics.”
Should anyone care? Well, yes. This certainly is not the most pressing problem facing medicine today. On the other hand, how physicians and their staffs relate and interact with patients does have an effect on patient satisfaction, patient compliance and patient volume.
I wonder whether OBs, and the ER docs referred to in the paper, can get away with scrubs because of the nature of their work. Appearance – of your office, of your forms, of your staff, and you – all effect patient confidence in you. Donald Burr, the founder of People’s Express airline (a discount carrier that rose and fell in the 1980s and 90s) had this to say: “Coffee stains on the flip down trays means bad maintenance on the airplanes.” I’ve blogged about forms before – one of my pet peeves are when a practice uses a copy of a copy of a copy. The layout, cleanliness and neatness of the office and exam rooms reflects you and your practice – and you don’t lose as many pieces of paper, charts and the like.
OK, bad to attire. My preference is more towards the neater “business casual” look, and I like staff to be in uniform like attire such as neat pants or skirts and a polo shirt or other logo shirt. Most importantly – everyone, and I do mean everyone, should wear a name badge with their name and title. It also should be of contrasting colors so the badges can be easily read by patients, particularly among older eyes.
The article suggests that regional differences may also be a factor in how patients perceive the physicians. It would seem to make sense, as the accepted dress in the business community does vary among different communities. That’s for another day.
The take-away: Appearrance does matter.