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Patient preference in dermatologist attire: A lesson from “Annie”

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By Warren R. Heymann, MD
June 5, 2016

The physician-patient relationship is predicated on trust and confidence. Impressions form rapidly and physician attire is an important component on how patients perceive their physician(s).

Fox et al surveyed 255 patients (with 63% from a medical dermatology clinic, 24% a dermatologic surgery clinic, and 13% in a wound care clinic). Patients were shown images of the 4 differing attire types without changing hairstyles, facial expression or accessories. Patient preferences were 73% for professional attire (with our without a white coat), 19% surgical attire, 6% business wear, and 2% for casual attire. Professional attire was preferred in all settings (although less so in the surgical clinic). Sandals, jeans, and earrings (in men) were frowned upon. The authors concluded that the majority of dermatology patients prefer professional attire (button-down shirt, tie, and slacks for men; blouse, skirt, or suit pants for women) (1).

Feel free to reach your own conclusions. Dermatology encounters are brief and patients will form their opinion of you and your office on 1001 factors, most of which have nothing to do with your ability to diagnose and treat their conditions. This ranges from how happy they were with their initial phone encounter, how quickly they were able to get an appointment, if the reception area was clean, etc, etc. It also helps to make sure you sit down during each visit and ask about how their life is in general. It makes perfect sense to look professional. The best advice, though, comes from the musical “Annie” — “You’re never fully dressed without a smile”.

1. Fox JD, et al. Patient preference in dermatologist attire in the medical, surgical, and wound care settings. JAMA Dermatol, published online June 1, 2016.

All content found on Dermatology World Insights and Inquiries, including: text, images, video, audio, or other formats, were created for informational purposes only. The content represents the opinions of the authors and should not be interpreted as the official AAD position on any topic addressed. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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