The practice of medical record-keeping dates back to the fifth century BC, when medical practice was dominated by Hippocrates and his followers. In the Hippocratic literature, medical records were used to demonstrate the cause and course of a disease. It was not until the 20th century that clinical records were routinely used as a tool to assess the quality of medical care, to educate physicians, and to evaluate the outcome of therapy 1,2 and management. Because of the increasing significance of medicolegal issues and their implications, the medical record has become an important means of evaluating the quality and outcome of patient care and of identifying errors and deficiencies in patient management with the subsequent legal responsibilities.1,2 It has been generally assumed that the clinical record was not used as a legal and educational tool before the middle of the 19th century, with most physicians relying on memory for the details of patient history and treatment and later describing them anecdotally. The authors became interested in the history of informed medical consent and medical record-keeping for legal purposes after finding a document of legal medical consent dating back to November 10, 1677.3
The purpose of this article is to report some new information about medical record-keeping, outcome of care, and peer review in 11th-century (505-590, Hijra calendar) Arab medicine. Quality control was an important part of medical practice in that period, and detailed lists of requirements and conditions were therefore applied to the practice of medicine, such as compulsory examinations, delivery of the Hippocratic oath in public, mastery of anatomy, and familiarity with medicinal preparations and their uses.4 The System, the Book, and the Author The system of Hisbah (quality control) was highly developed in the Arab world, during the 8th and 9th centuries. It involved quality control of everything in the marketplace, including scales, weights, produce, and services. A handbook for the Muhtasib (quality controller with the powers of a judge) was written in the 11th century by Al-Shaizari (died Cina 1094). 5 Several manuscripts of this book were copied in the 12th and 13th centuries, edited and published by Al-Baz Al-Arini in Cairo in 1946, and reprinted in Beirut in 1981.
The system of Hisbah was first brought to the attention of the Western world in 1860 by Walter Behrnauer. 6,7 The following is a translation of Chapter 37 of Al- Shaizari’s book. On Supervision (Hisbah) over Physicians, Oculists, Orthopedists and Surgeons Medicine is a theoretical and practical science which Sharia (Muslim Law) has permitted to be learned and practiced because of its (medicine’s) ability to preserve health and ward off maladies and diseases from this honored human body.
It is of great interest to note that a set of standards was in place in 11th-century Arab medicine to qualify and license physicians. Also in place was a set of rules regarding patient care and treatment, starting with the history and examination of the patient, written orders witnessed by those who were present, with a copy of those records to the patient’s relatives, and daily follow-up with a written documented progress report and new written orders if necessary. The review of the records by the Chief of Physicians after death occurred represents the postmortem
examination of the outcome of therapy by a peer and may be the first documented reference to the practice of peer review.
1. Reiser SJ. The clinical record in medicine. Part 1: Learning from cases. Ann Intern Med 1991;114:902-7.
2. Reiser SJ. The clinical record in medicine. Part 2: Reforming content and purpose. Ann Intern Med 1991;114:980-5.
3. Ajlouni KM. History of informed medical consent. Lancet 1995;346:980.
4. Al-Asali KJ. An Introduction to the History of Medicine in Jerusalem. Amman: University of Jordan Publication, 1994.
5. Al-Shaizari AR. Attainment of the Highest Rank by Seeking the Hisbah (Edited in the 12th century, published in Cairo in 1946 by Al-Baz Al-Arini). Reprinted in Beirut: Dar Al-Thaqafah, 1981.
6. Behrnauer W. Memoire sur les Institutions de Police chez les Arabs, les Persans et les Turcs Journ. As 5e Serie 1860, T, XV:461-509, T,
7. Behrnauer W. Notice Particuliere, Sur La Charge de Mouhtasib par le Scheikh Annabrawi Journ. As 5e Serie, 1860: T, XVI:347-92, 1861: T, XVIII:5-76.