Computer illiteracy relates to age, stress, and persona

January 22, 2008

Smiles can help radiologists deal with technological advances, while frowns can be disadvantageous

While stress and personality have a well-established relationship with one another, they were also found to have a strong relationship to computer literacy within the radiologist community. Radiologists with lower levels of occupational stress and certain positive personality types were found to be associated with higher levels of computer literacy.

Radiology has traditionally been considered a low-burnout specialty, but that is changing as increasing numbers of stressors are introduced into radiologists' lives (see table).

"Radiology is the only medical subspecialty that is 100% dependent on technology. And there is a tendency now for radiologists to become polarized into technophiles and technophobes," said lead author Dr. Bruce Reiner, director of radiology research at the VA Maryland Health Care System in Baltimore.

Reiner and colleagues performed a three-part online survey with 320 radiologist respondents (ages 30 to 77). Items examined included individual/practice demographics, personality profile, perceived stress level, and self-based computer literacy score. The single demographic factor found to correlate most highly with computer literacy was radiologist age (p < 0.001), with a mean age of 56.2 years for the lowest levels of computer literacy, compared with a mean age of 48.3 years for the highest levels of computer literacy.

When correlating computer literacy with occupational stress, researchers observed a negative correlation (p = 0.001), with mean perceived stress scale scores for computer-illiterate, computer-competent, and computer-sophisticated users of 31.7, 29.2, and 20.8, respectively.

They found computer knowledge correlated with radiologist personality for three of the main personality factors including openness (p < 0.001), agreeableness (p = 0.019), and conscientiousness (p = 0.015).

"Computer literacy has become an increasingly important prerequisite for successful radiology practice with the widespread adoption of PACS. A more thorough understanding of stress and personality must be emphasized and incorporated into radiologist education and training," Reiner said.

STRESSORS FELT BY TODAY'S RADIOLOGISTS

  • Supply/demand workforce imbalance

  • Size and complexity of data sets

  • Heightened service expectations

  • Decreased economic reimbursements

  • Increased medicolegal liability

  • Burgeoning technology