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Japan to survey medical services for foreigners before Tokyo Olympics

23 October 2016 No Comment

Japan’s health ministry is set to conduct the first large-scale survey on the nation’s medical services for foreign patients as part of its efforts to improve such services and boost the number of facilities friendly to them ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, ministry sources said Saturday.

Targeting some 4,000 hospitals and other medical facilities nationwide, the survey will assess records of past medical treatments given to foreign nationals and interpretation provided to them.

Foreign visitors to Japan reached a record 19.74 million in 2015 and medical demand from foreigners in the country has been increasing.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is hoping to utilize the results of the survey not only for improving medical services for tourists or foreign residents but also for those who come to Japan to receive medical treatment or undergo examinations.

The survey will cover medical institutions including those that accept emergency patients as well as about 300 local governments including prefectures and cities, according to the ministry, which is planning to compile the results by the end of the year.

In addition to the number of foreign patients accepted at each facility, the survey will find out the number of tourists and foreign residents, the ratio of those who can speak Japanese as well as availability of medical interpreters and coordinators who guide them in medical facilities, the sources said.

The survey will ask local governments about any measures they are implementing to promote acceptance of foreign patients as well as challenges so as to figure out effective administrative support to medical facilities.

The ministry said that foreign visitors to Japan have complained there are only a few hospitals where they can communicate, while medical facilities have raised concerns over difficulties in appropriately diagnosing or treating patients due to language barrier.

However, it is not easy to secure medical interpreters and other personnel due to restraints on budgets and human resources.

Since the year started in April 2014, the ministry has launched a project to subsidize costs related to arrangements of interpreters, translation of medical records and letters of consent.

Local governments have also started to train interpreters, the ministry said.


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