The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 12, No. 1 Spring 1985
Horace R. Givens UNIVERSITY OF MAINE AT ORONO
A TOTAL INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR PHYSICIANS: c. 1897
Abstract: This note describes an account book designed for the use of physicians, from the late 19th century. In addition to financial records, the book provides space for recording details of the medical problem, prescribed treatment, patient condition, and other matters of concern to the doctor. Records were to be kept for each patient, with supplemental entries by type of case. The book represents an early attempt to provide a total information system for the user; a system in which all necessary information would be available without reference to other material.
Accountants are today being asked to provide information on a variety of business matters, of a non-financial nature. This growing tendency has led accountants away from the traditional approach to their work, which centered upon pure financial reporting, and has produced the concept of the total information system designed to furnish a broad spectrum of data. Extensive systems are now common, involving data banks, computer models and so forth, which are intended to give management different types of informa-tion for decision-making purposes. It is interesting to observe, therefore, an attempt to accomplish something similar, in a small way, many years before the advent of the computer with all of its attendant paraphernalia.
In 1897, O. E. Williams of Marietta, Ohio published The Physi-cian's Memorandum and Account Book, Combined and Complete. (Williams had earlier published a similar volume entitled The Den-tist's Memorandum and Account book, Combined and Complete as well as supplemental Pocket Editions. None of these items has been located.)
In the Preface to the Physician's volume, Williams notes that the medical practitioner must hold himself in readiness: ". . . at all hours to go at the call of a fellow-being who may need his services."1 Because of these demands on his time and the uncertainty of his schedule, Williams says: ". . . he has little time to make such mem-