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Evidence for preferences of Italian patients for physician attire

Authors Sotgiu G, Nieddu P, Mameli L, Sorrentino E, Pirina P, Porcu A, Madeddu S, Idini M, Di Martino M, Delitala G, Mura I, Dore MP

Received 30 December 2011

Accepted for publication 3 February 2012

Published 27 April 2012 Volume 2012:6 Pages 361—367

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PPA.S29587

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4

Giovanni Sotgiu1, Paolo Nieddu2, Laura Mameli2, Enrico Sorrentino2, Pietro Pirina3, Alberto Porcu4, Stefano Madeddu1, Manuela Idini1, Maddalena Di Martino1, Giuseppe Delitala2, Ida Mura1, Maria Pina Dore2
1Epidemiology and Medical Statistics Unit, Department of Biomedical Sciences, 2Clinica Medica, 3Pneumologia, 4Chirurgia dell’Obesità, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy

Background: The relationship between patient and physician is a complex interaction that includes multiple factors. The objective of this study was to explore Italian patients’ preferences regarding physician appearance.
Methods: A questionnaire was developed to survey patients in different medical and surgical settings; each subject was asked to choose one picture of either a male or female physician from a selection of different attires (professional, casual, surgical scrubs, trendy, and careless). Patients were also surveyed about issues such as the presence of a name tag, hair length, trousers on women, amount of makeup, presence of tattoos, and body piercing. Statistical analysis was performed using a Chi-square test.
Results: A total of 765 questionnaires (534 completed from patients waiting for an internal medicine visit and 231 for other subspecialties) were completed. The majority (45%) of patients preferred the gastroenterologist to wear a surgical scrub with a white coat. For the other specialists, patients accepted either scrubs or formal dress under a white coat (P ≤ 0.05), with a name tag. Trendy attire was preferred by nine patients (1.1%). The entire sample judged it inappropriate for clinicians to have long hair, visible tattoos, body piercing, and, for women, to wear trousers and use excessive makeup.
Conclusion: This is the first study conducted in Italy regarding physician attire. As in other Western countries, Italian patients favor physicians in professional attire with a white coat. Wearing professional dress is part of “etiquette based medicine” and may favorably influence clinician–patient relationships and patient compliance.

Keywords: physician attire, appearance, etiquette medicine

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