White Coats: Style Choice or a Sign of Better Care?

The white lab coat has long been an iconic symbol of physicians—the reception of which also serves as a rite of passage for many—but does wearing one truly impact patients’ levels of trust and confidence in their doctors? While past studies have indicated that physician attire does affect patient perceptions, a new study from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has found that wearing, or not wearing, a white coat has no impact on patient satisfaction.

The study, published in the American Journal of Perinatology, was conducted to determine if or how the white coat influences physician-patient communication, and in turn, satisfaction. In the study, new mothers in the postpartum unit at the hospital were randomly assigned to teams of rounding physicians, who either donned a classic white coat or not, but aside from this one variable, provided the same level of care. Shortly before discharge, the women completed a modified version of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey, the only national, standardized survey used to measure patient satisfaction.

Of the respondents, 40% could not even recall whether or not their physician was wearing a white coat, and overall, the responses provided showed that the presence or lack of presence of a white coat did not impact the communication between patients and physicians, nor the patients’ satisfaction.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.