Patients' preferences for doctors' attire in Japan

Intern Med. 2010;49(15):1521-6. doi: 10.2169/internalmedicine.49.3572. Epub 2010 Aug 2.


Objective: Physicians' attire is one important factor to enhance the physician-patient relationship. However, there are few studies that examine patients' preferences for physicians' attire in Japan. We sought to assess patients' preference regarding doctors' attire and to assess the influence of doctors' attire on patients' confidence in their physician. Furthermore, we examined whether patients' preferences would change among various clinical situations.

Methods: Employing a cross-sectional design, Japanese outpatients chosen over one week in October 2008 from waiting rooms in various outpatient departments at St. Luke's International Hospital, Tokyo, were given a 10-item questionnaire. A 5-point Likert scale was used to estimate patient preference for four types of attire in both male and female physicians, including semi-formal attire, white coat, surgical scrubs, and casual wear. In addition, a 4-point Likert Scale was used to measure the influence of doctors' attire on patient confidence.

Patients: Japanese outpatients consecutively chosen from waiting rooms at St. Luke's International Hospital in Tokyo for one week in October 2008.

Results: Of 2,272 outpatients enrolled, 1483 (67.1%) of respondents were women. Mean age of subjects was 53.8 years (SD 16.2 years). Respondents most preferred the white coat (mean rank: 4.18, SD: 0.75) and preferred casual attire the least (mean rank: 2.32, SD: 0.81). For female physicians, 1.4% of respondents ranked the white coat little/least preferred while 64.7% of respondents ranked casual wear little/least preferred. Among respondents who most preferred the white coat for physician attire, perceived hygiene (62.7%) and inspiring confidence (59.3%) were important factors for doctor's attire. Around 70% of all respondents reported that physicians' attire has an influence on their confidence in their physician.

Conclusion: This study confirms that Japanese outpatients prefer a white coat. Furthermore, this study strongly suggests that wearing a white coat could favorably influence patients' confidence in the relationship with their physician in all types of practice.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Clothing / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan / ethnology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Preference / ethnology*
  • Patient Preference / psychology*
  • Patient Satisfaction / ethnology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians / psychology*