Blog | Wednesday, December 9, 2015

White coat vote

Does your doctor/health professional wear a traditional white coat?

Do you favor it? Or do you think it creates a barrier that makes it harder to connect with or question her?

What about infection? Studies show that health professionals in general don't launder their white coats often enough. Other studies show that the garments harbor potentially pathogenic bacteria. But no studies or reports have yet demonstrated specifically that white coats have been a vector of transmission.

There's been a flurry of media around the topic recently: At various infectious diseases society meetings, many member physicians have been advocating for a change in our white coat culture — trying to get health care workers to remove their white coats and go “bare below the elbows.”

I won't rehash the points of view here; instead, there are several links you can peruse if you're interested in this topic that I will provide below.

Philip Lederer, an infectious diseases doctor in Boston, has been one of the main advocates against white coats: He wrote about it here, then blogged about it here.

I interviewed Dr. Lederer about the topic for Tulsa Public Radio here; then the Boston Globe ran a front page story about the debate here.

I tried to summarize the viewpoints (and offered a bit of personal narrative) for NPR here; then Dr. Lederer wrote a response here. His website provides a fine array of information about this issue.

What are your thoughts? Vote by leaving a comment here or tweeting me @GlassHospital. If you're not a tweeter, send a SnapChat (just kidding … kids these days!).

This post by John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, originally appeared at GlassHospital. Dr. Schumann is a general internist. His blog, GlassHospital, seeks to bring transparency to medical practice and to improve the patient experience.