Electronic Health Records

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Conscientious, open-minded users have better EHR experience

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Wanted: Male medical student, 20 to 29 years old.  Open-minded and computer savvy with a conscientious nature and a willingness to embrace change.  It’s not a lonely-hearts ad in the local paper.  It’s the ideal EHR user according to a new study from AHIMA.  Research has shown that a medical student’s attitude towards electronic health records has a significant impact on how easy the software is to use and how useful to clinical practice it is perceived to be.

As part of the industry’s ongoing attempt to figure out why some physicians love their EHRs and others loathe them, a team of HIM researchers handed out a questionnaire to 126 third-year medical students at a large university designed to gauge an EHR product’s ease of use and usefulness.  The survey contained questions about personality, experiences with technology, and basic information such as age and gender.

Male students were more likely to anticipate that the software would be easy to use than their female counterparts.  Students who indicated proficiency with computer technology were also more likely to be comfortable with EHRs and embrace their use as part of clinical practice.  Students who self-reported as organized, hard-working, achievement-oriented, and generally conscientious also embraced EHRs more easily, even when their responses were controlled for prior computer experience.

“These relationships suggest that openness to change is another individual characteristic that medical educators and administrators should be aware of when designing EHR training and education,” the report states. “Among people who are less open to change, organizational change can negatively impact job satisfaction and can increase work irritation and intentions to quit. Moreover, experiencing technological change can reduce future openness to change among more skilled workers, such as physicians.”

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  • Previous research has added to the notion that attitudes towards technology have a greater impact on EHR adoption than age or other experiences.  Physicians who believe that the uncertainly inherent in the practice of medicine can be reduced by the use of technology and algorithms are more likely to be EHR users than those who think of healthcare as more of a nebulous art than a science.  Many physicians would rather retire than revamp the way they work to incorporate an EHR, and user satisfaction is low among those have experienced the productivity losses that are always a risk with implementation.

    Could EHR success come down to a physician’s Myers-Briggs type?  It’s certainly a significant consideration, the researchers conclude, and one that educators must pay attention to.  “Because today’s healthcare providers face significant changes in technology and organizational structures, educators and administrators should carefully attend to students and physicians who may be particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of change.”

    “Today’s technology-savvy medical students are likely to become tomorrow’s champions and facilitators of EHR use among more experienced physicians. Therefore, medical educators and administrators should find ways to positively shape students’ openness to EHR-related change and their EHR use expectations.”

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