Patients Prefer White Coats on Doctors
Are Coats Uncomfortable Germ Carriers or Sign of Professionalism?
May 12, 2004 -- Doctors don't like traditional white coats.
They call them uncomfortable -- germ carriers. But most patients prefer their
doctors to wear them, a new study shows.
It's an often-disputed problem -- somewhat resolved by this new
Since 1991, fewer and fewer London doctors have been wearing
the traditional doctor's white coat -- especially among younger doctors, writes
researcher J. Douse, MD, with the Royal Free and UCL Medical School in
"Although medical opinion in London is changing away from
the white coat, others feel they still have a positive role," writes Douse.
He quotes an Australian doctor: "The time might be right to rediscover the
white coat as a symbol of our purpose and pride as a profession."
Douse's study involved 86 doctors and 400 patients -- all who
completed questionnaires. Both patients and doctors were asked: "Do you
think doctors should wear white coats?" and were allowed to explain their
When the results were tallied:
- 56% of patients voted for coats.
Patients over age 70 -- and those patients whose doctors
already wore coats - preferred when doctors wore white coats.
Patients that preferred to see doctors wear white coats cited
the most common reason as ease of identifying doctors. Less than 1% of patients
thought coats were germ carriers.
"Patients want to be able to identify their doctors and see
the white coat as a means of achieving this," writes Douse.
The researchers say that further studies are needed to
determine whether doctors dressed in white coats affect how patients view
quality of care.