Skip to content

    50+: Live Better, Longer

    Font Size

    Patients Prefer White Coats on Doctors

    Are Coats Uncomfortable Germ Carriers or Sign of Professionalism?
    WebMD Health News

    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 British survey.

    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 London.

    "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 answers.

    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.

    Doctors' answers:

    • 24% wanted coats.
    • 13% wore coats.

    • 70% felt they were an infection risk.

    • 60% said they were uncomfortable.

    "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.

    Today on WebMD

    Eating for a longer, healthier life.
    woman biking
    How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
    womans finger tied with string
    Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
    smiling after car mishap
    9 things no one tells you about getting older.
    fast healthy snack ideas
    how healthy is your mouth
    dog on couch
    doctor holding syringe
    champagne toast
    Two women wearing white leotards back to back
    Man feeding woman
    two senior women laughing