Objective: To examine patient preference regarding physician attire and whether perception of medical competence was influenced by the physician's clothing style.
Methods: New patients presenting to the OB/GYN clinic at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth were asked to complete a survey regarding patient preference for physcian attire and any effect on their comfort or confidence in the physician.
Results: Surveys were collected over a 2-month period. Completed surveys (328) were analyzed with the following results: 86% had no preference whether the physician wore a white coat, 61% preferred scrubs, 13% were uncomfortable talking to a doctor about general topics, and 16% were uncomfortable talking about sexual, psychological, or personal topics based on physician attire. In a comparison between active duty women and dependent wives, a significantly greater number of dependent wives reported the physician attire having no influence on their comfort level discussing general topics with their physician (p = 0.037) or about sexual, psychological, or personal topics (p = 0.035). No difference was seen between groups in the preference to wear a white coat (p = 0.196) or other attire (p = 0.088) or of an influence of the doctors' clothing on the patient's confidence in the doctors' abilities (p = 0.063).
Conclusion: Overall, female patients in a military setting do not have a preference for specific physician attire and attire does not influence their perception of the doctor's competence. However, a greater number of dependent wives report physician attire has no influence on their comfort level discussing both general and personal topics when compared with active duty women. This finding highlights the unique role of the military uniform in the eyes of active duty women and their potential discomfort in discussing personal medical issues with a physician in military uniform.