Japan Turns Eye on Medical Tourism Before Olympics


The Japanese Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare has announced they will conduct a survey of the nations medical infrastructure specifically to examine how foreign patients use the system. The purpose is to improve Japans medical services for foreign patients before the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The survey will extend to approximately 4000 medical facilities and hospitals where officials will examine records of past patients to calculate the total number of foreign patients and which treatments they received how many spoke Japanese and the accessibility of interpreters and facilitators to assist patients with the process.

The survey will also ask municipalities and prefectures to explain what steps they are taking in order to draw foreign patients and the specific problems that they encounter when offering services. Preliminary results show that foreign patients in Japan have had trouble locating a hospital where they can easily communicate with staff.

The hospital staff conversely has shown concerns with diagnosing and treating a patient when they cannot communicate effectively with their patients. The staff further commented on the obstacle of securing personnel who can properly translate due to budget cuts.

This survey will do more than help Japan prepare for the flood of tourists who will come to the city ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games -- it will help them boost their medical tourism industry. Having a trained staff that can effectually communicate with patients is an essential best practice and helps to ensure the patient that they are safe and in good hands when traveling to the other side of the world.

Final results from the survey are not expected until the end of 2016. Until that time Japanese hospitals will need to rely on a subsidy project launched in 2014 to aid in the cost of interpreters and the translation of medical records and other important documents. Local governments have also begun to train their own interpreters.

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