Interest in technology among medical students early in their clinical experience

Int J Med Inform. 2021 Jun 3;153:104512. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2021.104512. Online ahead of print.


Background: The world is in the midst of the "digital" revolution characterized by the ascendency of computerization, information systems and artificial intelligence with an emphasis on innovation and creativity. This revolution has affected current medical practice and promises to significantly impact it in the future. This requires physician's understanding and participation in adopting such technology. This study aimed to explore the role technology plays in the future career plans of medical students.

Methods: A questionnaire examining selection criteria for medical specialty choice, criteria for choosing a post-residency job and demographic data was completed by a convenience sample of 5th-year Israeli medical students.

Results: Two-hundred forty-two students (51 % men) completed the questionnaire, an 84 % response rate. Only a third (35 %) rated the specialty selection criterion "provides mechanical/ technological challenges" as important, while only 7% considered as important that a specialty requires skills in computer science. Few students were interested in post-residency positions requiring much technological knowledge (25 %) and requiring much skill with computerized information systems (13 %). Male students were significantly more interested than females in such positions and these students more often reported that they were considering careers in surgery and its subspecialties. This surgical bent was confirmed by the 42 % of students interested in post-residency positions that include time in the operating room having more interest in positions requiring much technological knowledge than the students not interested in operating room time.

Conclusions: This preliminary study demonstrated that as a group the students' expressed relatively little interest in medical specialties and post-residency positions involving technological challenges and knowledge of information (computer) science. Yet, the sub-group interested in the surgical specialties had such interests. These findings were perplexing since the students belong to Generations Y and Z who are steeped in the use of smartphones and social media. Therefore, we failed to support our hypothesis that Generation Y and Z students would be attracted to specialties and positions that provide them with technological challenges. Furthermore, medical educators need to explore this apparent lack of interest in technology in order to insure that the future physician workforce is ready to face future "digital" challenges.

Keywords: Information systems; Medical curriculum; Medical education; Medical specialties; Medical students; Technology.