Object: To know how Japanese patients perceive their physicians without a white coat during consultations.
Subjects and methods: The patients who visited a university clinic were divided into two groups: those seen by a physician in a white coat (the white-coat group) and those seen by a physician in private clothes (the private-clothes group). Questionnaires were distributed to the patients, which asked the tension and satisfaction of consultations as well as their preference for physician's attire. The answers of the white-coat group were compared with those of the private-clothes group.
Results: The percentage of new patients who felt tense during consultations was greater in the white-coat group (42%) than in the private-clothes group (33%). Seventy-one percent of the patients in the white-coat group preferred physicians in a white coat whereas only 39% preferred so in the private-clothes group (p<0.0001). However, the degree of patients' satisfaction for the consultation showed no statistical difference between the groups. Sixty-nine percent of the patients older than or equal to 70 years preferred a white coat while 52 percent of the patients younger than 70 years preferred so (p=0.002).
Conclusion: Physician's white coats did not influence the satisfaction with the consultations for most Japanese patients in a university clinic, although elderly patients as well as those seen by a physician in a white coat tended to prefer the white coat to the private clothes. Furthermore, practice without a white coat might reduce patients' tension during their first consultation.