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Could a doctor wearing a white coat impact patient satisfaction?

Health

Patient satisfaction is top of mind for Dr. Bradford Waddell at Hospital for Special Surgery Orthopedics at Stamford Health. 

He explains,”We are now being judged and paid on our satisfaction.  Reimbursement is going to be tied to that. “If we can do everything we can to make them more satisfied in the simplest of ways, it can turn into better satisfaction overall.”    

That got the orthopedic surgeon thinking, “Is what we’re wearing, for patients in my population, going to affect satisfaction?” 

He’s the lead author of a nationwide study — asking over 1,100 patients at 10 health facilities across the country to rate surgeons on a number of topics such as satisfaction, intelligence, trust, recommendation, and caring. 

It’s all based on whether the surgeon was wearing a white coat. 

“Overall- whether you were wearing scrubs with a white coat or a tie or no tie with a white coat,” says Dr. Waddell, “White coat won.  Everyone preferred a white coat overall.”

Not so much for patients like John Pekala.  

John says, “I think I’m less hung up on how they are dressed vs their qualifications and experience.  That’s what’s important to me.” 

He’s in for a follow up visit, after undergoing a knee replacement. 

“If they came in with ragged clothes and ripped jeans, yes,” says John, “But if they are dressed appropriately and they look presentable, I’m perfectly fine with that.”   

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HHS physiatrist, Dr. Alice Chen not surprised with the finding

She says, “I definitely see that patients feel more at ease.  They know who they doctor is and they seem more confident.”  

She prefers wearing one, “There’s an ease that people like to not have to wear a uniform but I also feel like wearing a white coat prepares me for my job.” 

Advice to those who choose not to?  

Dr. Waddell says, “If you’re not going to or if you choose your own style, make sure you find ways to keep your patients satisfied.” 

He says about 70 percent of patients surveyed preferred a white coat, a big enough difference he says that doctors should consider wearing a white coat.    

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