It's an established fact that for technology implementation to be successful, there needs to be some flexibility in order to meet the individual needs of those learning the new systems. A recent study finds those individual needs may be determined by gender and personality.

Researchers at the University of Florida conducted a survey of 126 third-year medical schools to determine which personal characteristics related to their perceptions of electronic health record systems. Among their findings was that men were more likely than women to report that EHRs were easy to use.

High levels of computer self-efficacy, openness to change and a conscientious personality were also related to a perception of EHRs being easy to use. The results were published in the Winter 2014 edition of the AHIMA Foundation's Perspectives in Health Information Management journal.

"By better understanding individual differences among students and related technology beliefs, educators and administrators can customize medical school curricula and EHR training to maximize physicians' understanding and acceptance of EHRs," the researchers wrote.

"Insufficiently flexible strategies decrease system acceptance and user satisfaction while increasing clinical workarounds and other project failures. To avoid these pitfalls, medical educators and administrators could identify key individual differences, such as gender or relatively weak computer skills, and offer additional training opportunities to affected students or physicians.”

The authors also noted that the characteristics could also be used to identify individuals who could serve as EHR champions. Other research, including a November 2013 study in the Journal of Biomedical Informatics, has shown a perception of ease of use is closely correlated with an acceptance of EHRs.

These findings could also apply to personality traits created by cultural differences, said Courtney Johnson, president of the Student National Medical Association, a student-run organization focused on the needs of minorities. She said certain minority groups that may not have grown up using technology might not be as comfortable using EHRs or other technologies as others.

This is something that medical school administrators should be thinking about so they can find ways to ensure everyone is getting the training they need, according to Johnson. They should be able to say with confidence that everyone leaving their program is trained and prepared to use EHRs, she said.

But, “you want to be careful not to stereotype anyone,” Johnson said.

Dr. Nida Degesys, president of the American Medical Student Association, agrees it would be bad to place people in groups based on gender or personality.

"I think that that's inaccurate, and it would actually harm our education system," she said.

Degesys is also concerned with the idea of individuals being placed in certain categories based on self-reported perceptions.

"This study is only focusing on perceived ease of use, which is very different from actual use," she said. "It's very difficult to say that these individuals aren't actually using [the EHR] incorrectly or that they would need additional training. In fact, they could actually be using it very well."

Even the study authors acknowledge that self-reporting may have caused some biases.

"In particular, the computer self-efficacy measure is a subjective assessment that does not objectively assess student competence in using computers," they wrote.