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The Effect of Orthopaedic Surgeon's Attire on Patient Confidence and Trust in a Suburban Setting
Vince W. Lands, MD
St Lukes University Health Network, Bethlehem, PA

Background: Previous studies have recognized that patients are more likely to have confidence and trust in physicians who dress in more formal attire, with the white coat acting as a major source of patient perceived trust and confidence.Purpose: This study aims to explore any connection that may exist between an orthopedic surgeon's attire and its influence on patient perception of surgeon competence and trustworthiness in a suburban setting.

Patients/Methods: Patients older than the age of 18 who presented for outpatient evaluation in a suburban setting were asked to participate in this survey-based study. Patients were first asked about various demographic factors. They were then shown images of male and female surgeons wearing different outfits (formal, business, casual, and scrubs) and asked to rate seven perceived characteristics of each surgeon using a Likert Scale: confidence, perceived intelligence, technical prowess, willingness to discuss confidential information, trust, perceived safety, and empathy. Finally, patients were asked about absolute preferences regarding physician attire and physical attributes.

Results: 85 surveys were fully completed. Participants were mostly female (65%), Caucasian (79%), and completed higher education (52%). The age groups of 45-54 (25%) and 55-64 (26%) equally constituted the biggest groups of participants. Patient confidence, perceived intelligence and trust was comparably higher in physicians pictured in a white coat or scrubs, compared to a low approval of physicians wearing gender specific professional or casual attire. When asked to directly compare physician attire, patient responders were most confident in male surgeons wearing a white coat and female surgeons wearing either white coats or scrubs.

Conclusions: Combining strong clinical skills with appropriate clinical attire, particularly the traditional physician white coat, appears to be an effective way to enhance patient trust and confidence in their orthopaedic surgeon.


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