The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

One of the aims of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) is to better inform Japanese government policy through advocacy and outreach efforts, including a series of white papers on a range of subjects.

For the launch of the ACCJ–EBC Health Policy White Paper 2017, the ACCJ Healthcare Committee held a press conference at Tokyo American Club on September 12 to reveal some of the core issues and recommendations detailed in the publication.

The Leader’s Panel, which discussed four key areas, included ACCJ President Christopher J. LaFleur, European Business Council Chairman Danny Risberg, MSD K.K. Representative Director and President Jannie Oosthuizen, Janssen Pharmaceutical K.K. President and Representative Director Christopher Hourigan, and Yasuko Aitoku, operating officer and head of market access at Bayer Yakuhin, Ltd.

Japan faces a rapidly aging society, which LaFleur said directly impacts the nation’s healthcare system. “It’s an extraordinarily costly system to maintain, and the government understandably is at work trying to develop ways to meet the fiscal burden that [it] imposes.” Key to solving the problem is promoting innovative approaches to healthcare and dialogue between government and industry.

John Carlson, chair of the ACCJ Healthcare Committee, outlined the aim of the white paper and its growth since the first edition was published in 2010. He also stressed the collective effort of the 320 committee members who work in the healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices sectors. This year’s paper, the fifth in the series, includes about 200 recommendations and is informed by government health policy goals and these expert committee members.

“It is far better to prevent than treat a condition once it develops and gets worse,” Oosthuizen explained.

He suggested changes in lifestyle as one critical factor, detailing the frailty model used for prevention, early detection, and treatment, as well as age-appropriate nutrition and exercise.

Despite a revision of the vaccination law provision in April 2013, he said that “we still believe there is a vaccine gap that needs to be resolved. Transparency and predictability of the national immunization program is one of the key elements needed for improvement.”

Health screenings for the detection of glaucoma, diabetes, and dementia also need further development in Japan. For this to happen, the advancement of technology and testing is vital.

Aitoku claimed that Japan lags behind many other countries in women’s healthcare and that the way to change this is to work with government policy to alter the perception of women in society and to provide appropriate support.

She explained that women are reluctant to go for screenings and treatments due to a lack of awareness and education. This causes more serious issues further down the line—untreated menstrual symptoms, and breast and cervical cancer in particular.

Two recommendations include an “opt-out” system, instead of “opt-in”, for gynecological checkups, and financial support for breast-cancer screenings.

Hourigan explained that the economic impact of better infection prevention is substantial. Specifically, healthcare-associated infections (HAI) are a critical issue. One of the recommendations includes creating a prevention strategy, regular HAI reports to collect data, a prevention target, and an incentive for prevention.

It was also noted that only three new antibiotics have been approved since 2010—although Hourigan admits that the discovery of new antibiotics is costly. “We need new mechanisms to boost research and development.”

Risberg talked about the rate at which IT and wide data (such as that gathered by wearable devices), deep data (more detailed information that only a computer can see), and dense data (big data pattern recognition) are growing. These are critical to solving the shortage of staff working in intensive care units.
“There is only one way to do it,” he concluded, “and that is through IT—and probably extensive use of artificial intelligence in healthcare.”

Download the ACCJ–EBC Health Policy White Paper 2017:

Maxine Cheyney is a staff writer at Custom Media for The ACCJ Journal.