And in any event, patient preferences are primarily shaped by cultural norms rather than medical evidence. Patients rarely perceive that white coats can be covered with bacteria, that coats are infrequently washed, that white coats can make a health care worker’s hands dirtier, and that coats could lead to serious infections.

Patients also don’t realize that this debate has been going in circles for years with little action in the United States.

The culture of medicine is very powerful, and old habits, like white coats, are hard to break. But doctors are still doctors whether they wear a coat or not. And even if white coats inspire trust in some patients, whatever theoretical benefits the coats may have aren’t worth the downsides. There is no harm in avoiding white coats, but there could be danger in wearing one.


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Primum non nocere. First, do no harm, my fellow physicians. That starts with rethinking the white coat ceremony.

The Conversation

Philip Lederer is an Infectious Diseases Fellow at Harvard Medical School

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.