Objective: To assess Saudi patients' preferences regarding Saudi physicians' attire, and its influence on patients' level of trust and confidence in their physician.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted from May to June 2011 among patients waiting to be seen by their physicians from the outpatient medical clinics of King Abdulaziz Medical City, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Patients were asked multiple questions, which included their choice of preference regarding the attire of male and female physicians. Additionally, patients were asked questions related to their preferences regarding their physician's gender, and the influence of physician's appearance on patient confidence.
Results: A total of 399 patients were interviewed (231 males, 168 females). The mean age was 37 years. Most of the patients (62%) preferred physicians` formal outfit, which was is defined as; tie, shirt, and trousers. Only 9.7% of the patients preferred national Saudi attire (thoab and shemagh). Most patients (73%) preferred long skirts to be worn by female doctors. Up to 85% of patients preferred the white coat to be worn by physicians. Approximately 50% of the patients expressed no preference regarding the gender of their physicians. Confidence in the physician's competence and experience was not significantly associated with the physician's attire or gender (p=0.238).
Conclusion: Most patients prefer physicians to wear formal attire, however, the gender of the treating physician was not shown to be of particular importance. In addition, the level of trust in a physician is not related to his/her external appearance.