How Professional Appearance Influences Patient Trust

We don’t completely understand how professional appearance influences patient trust. It’s fairly clear that professional appearance can impact how a patient feels about that professional and the treatments they suggest, but to what degree isn’t known. Regardless, there are many advantages appearance can offer a medical professional, even if this area warrants more study.

Professional Appearance & Patient Trust

Some important factors to consider when choosing medical apparel for a business include the following:

Do Patients Care About Physician Appearance?

Research into how much patients care about the appearance of their physicians and the other professionals serving them is mixed. A 2005 study that surveyed adults with a mean age of 52.4 years found that patients had a strong preference for physicians who wore professional attire with a white coat or, to a lesser degree, scrubs. 

However, a 2021 study suggested that patients don’t typically consider their physician’s attire to significantly influence their comfort with a prescribed treatment plan. While not conclusive, this study did suggest that the appearance of a medical professional may not be a major factor in whether patients adhere to their treatment plan. 

Notably, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence suggesting the reverse — that a professional appearance could reduce the likelihood of a patient adhering to their treatment. Current literature at least suggests that a professional appearance is likely to have a positive or at least neutral effect. 

The Value of Professionalism & Unified Aesthetic

There’s a strong argument that professional attire offers many benefits, even if the evidence suggests patients care less about appearance than some might assume. For one, it sets a good baseline. Having a team who dresses in professional, clean clothing designed for a medical setting as a standard prevents issues stemming from inappropriate or outright harmful attire.

Professional attire may also help a medical professional feel suited to their role. It’s important that doctors, nurses, and other staff members are reasonably confident and not worried that patients are judging their appearance. Professional attire helps them focus on their work while staying confident that they look the part of a medical professional. 

This may also have an impact when an individual observes your team in action rather than particular individuals. Seeing multiple individuals dressed similarly and professionally to perform important medical work will likely give a better impression than the same group doing the same work dressed differently. 

Professionalism & Utility

Professional attire doesn’t develop in a vacuum. While aesthetics and fashion obviously influence clothing in almost any industry, medical attire tends to be designed with utility in mind. Scrubs can be made to be antimicrobial and easy to clean, ensuring a hygienic work environment. A doctor’s coat has pockets for tools and other materials they might need while also protecting them from hazardous liquid splatter. 

Patients want medical professionals who appear prepared and knowledgeable. Although attire isn’t the only thing that will influence their perceptions, it can have a negative or positive effect. If clothes help a doctor quickly pull out a necessary tool or demonstrate that the facility cares about hygiene, this can positively impact a patient’s experience, even if they don’t realize that’s why they feel the way they do.

Why Patient Trust Matters

There are many reasons to value patient trust. For one, a medical setting is not typically a relaxing one. Patients can be anxious, especially if they know they have a serious medical condition or will need to go through a treatment that may be dangerous or uncomfortable. At the same time, it’s important that a patient listens to the medical professionals helping them.

More Research Is Needed

The existing literature reveals gaps in our understanding of how and to what extent appearance influences patient perception. Surveyed patients may not always know why they feel a certain way about their treatment or the professionals working with them. At the very least, a professional appearance seems to provide some advantage when it comes to patient perceptions and should not be ignored.

Healthcare attire doesn’t have to be expensive either. If you want help equipping your medical staff so they look professional and meet industry standards, our team at Alsco can help. We can also launder materials, fill first aid cabinets, and more!


What to Wear Today? Effect of Doctor’s Attire on the Trust and Confidence of Patients. (November 2005). The American Journal of Medicine.

The Effect of Physician Appearance on Patient Perceptions of Treatment Plans. (May 2021). Dermatology Online Journal

Understanding Patient Preference for Physician Attire: A Cross-Sectional Observational Study of 10 Academic Medical Centres in the USA. (May 2018). BMJ Open.

Contact Us

Interested in Alsco's Services? Visit our Contact page and let us know!