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January 1970

Information Technologies and Health Care: 1. Medical Care As a System

Author Affiliations

Yorktown Heights, NY

From the Advanced Systems Development Division, International Business Machines Corp., Yorktown Heights, NY.

Arch Intern Med. 1970;125(1):157-161. doi:10.1001/archinte.1970.00310010159021

In this series of communications, medical care is examined as a system, ie, as a set of interactive elements with some purpose, objective, or cause for existence. Very simple systems, such as a thermostat-temperature-furnace system, can be fully defined and malfunctions diagnosed and treated with some ease. Natural, biosocial systems cannot be fully defined, because each interacting element of the total system is commonly a very complex subsystem in its own right. Furthermore, the various subsystems may have objectives of their own, not all of which are necessarily coincident with the main objective of the total system.

The medical profession has been singularly successful in analyzing the complex natural system known as man, and much of the success is due to analyzing its various malfunctions. Because only some of the parts of the total system are involved in a particular malfunction, it is logically necessary that, with respect to this

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