What to wear when practicing oriental medicine: patients' preferences for doctors' attire

J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Aug;17(8):763-7. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0612. Epub 2011 Jul 1.


Objectives: The patient's impression of the doctor is an important factor in a clinical consultation, and the doctor's attire also plays a great role in promoting trust and confidence in the patients. Previous studies have shown that a doctor in a white coat will appear more professional, confident, and trustworthy. The objective of this study was to investigate whether the influence of a doctor's attire applies for both Western and Oriental medical doctors.

Methods: Before a clinical consultation, 153 patients were asked to assess photographs showing an identical doctor wearing four different dress styles. The patients were divided into two groups: One group was told that the doctor in the photograph was a Western doctor, whereas the other group was told that the doctor was an Oriental medical doctor. Patients' ratings of preference for competency, trustworthiness, comfortableness, and treatment choice were then measured and compared.

Results: Patients preferred a doctor in a white coat the most, giving highest ratings for competency and trustworthiness, while reporting to feel most comfortable with a doctor in traditional dress. No difference was found between Western and Oriental medical doctors. Patients prefer their doctors to wear white coats, regardless of whether the doctor is a Western or Oriental medical doctor, even though patients feel more comfortable with doctors wearing traditional dress.

Conclusions: The preference about doctors' attire symbolizes the perception of patients regarding their doctor's image. Taking the historical and symbolic meaning of the doctor's white coat together, this clear preference of patients for the white coat might imply that patients require a more scientific and professional image, regardless of whether the doctors are Western or Oriental medical doctors.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Portrait
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clothing*
  • Color
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, East Asian Traditional*
  • Patient Preference*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Photography
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians*
  • Professional Competence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trust