The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Important discussions are under way in Japan to determine what is needed to lower healthcare costs and improve outcomes. Such discussions are becoming more common in countries across the globe, and increasingly focus on greater utilization of healthcare information technology.

This field includes tools and processes such as electronic health records, telemedicine, mobile health facilities, and, most recently, connected healthcare devices and the Internet of Things.

Many healthcare professionals now believe these intelligent tools and further innovations will enable significant improvements in healthcare quality and clinical outcomes while simultaneously lowering costs.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Healthcare Committee, the ACCJ Healthcare IT Subcommittee, and the European Business Council (EBC) have been actively advocating increased utilization of healthcare IT in Japan, and are collaborating on key issues with other leading industry associations.

One such collaboration is with the Japan Telemedicine and Telecare Association (JTTA), the country’s most respected and influential organization dedicated to improving the quality of telemedicine and increasing its utilization in Japan.

The ACCJ and EBC were invited to present their work in the healthcare IT sector to JTTA’s members at the organization’s annual Spring Conference on February 20. Over 100 doctors, nurses, academics, and healthcare professionals attended.

Professor Masatsugu Tsuji, PhD, a JTTA Steering Committee member, opened the session by stressing how important it is for entities with similar objectives to work together to address Japan’s healthcare issues.

He introduced Eiji Sasahara, chair of the ACCJ Healthcare IT Subcommittee, and Danny Risberg, EBC chairman, each of whom described their respective organizations and the work being done in the healthcare sector.

Three ACCJ member companies—Qualcomm Inc., Philips Electronics Japan, Ltd. and Baxter Ltd.—showed the ways in which their companies are deploying and utilizing healthcare IT solutions and devices, both in Japan and globally.

Hiro Kawabata of Qualcomm presented on how machine-to-machine technology and the Internet of Things are poised to dramatically impact healthcare IT by reducing the costs associated with monitoring healthcare data.

Baxter’s Byron Sigel and Philips’s Yuriko Nagaoka described their companies’ respective home healthcare solutions.

Sigel warned that the number of patients suffering from chronic kidney disease as a result of diabetes is on the rise, and said Baxter’s home dialysis system will allow patients to undergo treatment at home, as a more comfortable and less expensive alternative to treatment in hospitals.

Nagaoka presented Philips’s comprehensive home care system, Hospital to Home, which provides integrated customized care that leverages innovative telehealth solutions and allows clinicians to remotely monitor patients at home and prioritize them for intervention if necessary.

The talks were followed by a Q&A session, during which Tsuji asked the panel, “What are the key barriers limiting telemedicine in Japan?”

Panelists unanimously replied: there are no clear-cut regulations for telemedicine, and reimbursements are either nonexistent or insufficient.

Tsuji ended by saying that the JTTA would like to collaborate more closely with international companies and associations such as the ACCJ and EBC, to develop the healthcare IT sector in general and telemedicine in particular.

As we prepare for the publication of our third ACCJ–EBC healthcare white paper this May, the issues related to healthcare IT are increasing in importance and prominence.

Our ability to influence key decision-makers in the Japanese ministries and government will be enhanced by endorsements and support from well-respected domestic associations such as the JTTA.

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Marc Fuoti is president of Big Picture International K.K. and a member of the ACCJ Healthcare IT Committee

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Over 100 participants attended the JTTA Spring Conference.