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Journal Article

Doctor's attire influences perceived empathy in the patient–doctor relationship


Lee H, Chang,  D-S
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Chung, H., Lee H, Chang, D.-S., Kim H-S, Lee H, Park, H.-J., & Chae, Y. (2012). Doctor's attire influences perceived empathy in the patient–doctor relationship. Patient Education and Counseling, 89(3), 387–391. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2012.02.017.

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Objective This study investigated whether doctors’ attire influences the perception of empathy in the patient–doctor relationship during a therapeutic encounter. Methods A total number of 143 patients were divided into four groups when they were consulting a Traditional Korean Medicine doctor. Depending on the group, the same doctor was wearing four different attires – Casual, Suit, Traditional dress, White coat – when having a clinical consultation with the patients. Results The patients preferred white coat and traditional dress more than other attires, giving highest scores to white coat in competency, trustworthiness and preference of attire and to traditional dress in comfortableness and contentment with the consultation. The “Consultation and Relational Empathy (CARE)” score was significantly higher in the “White coat” and “Traditional” groups, compared to the “Casual” and “Suit” groups. Conclusion The strong association between the patients’ preference of doctors’ attire and the CARE score indicates that the doctor's attire plays not only an important role for establishing confidence and trustworthiness but also for the perception of empathy in the patient–doctor relationship.