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Messages from "Economic Trend", November 2003

About Healthcare Services in Japan

Naoyuki Akikusa
Vice Chairmen of the Board of Councillors, Nippon Keidanren
Chairman, Fujitsu Limited

If I were to ask you to raise your primary personal or family concerns, I would suppose that many would pick, "health and/or education." When thinking about "health," many, including myself, would imagine "healthcare." In this context, "e-Japan II" which was proposed this year, recognizes the "healthcare field" as one of the top priority for this continuing initiative.

In the discussion of "designated structural reform districts" and "regulatory reform," the "healthcare" issue is also included. The "aging society with a declining birthrate," is a serious matter for Japan. To address this situation, I hope to see a forward-looking discussion on healthcare reforms, especially the area of what level of medical services should be made available to the people in Japan.

We find an example in the U.S. in the 1990's. To provide seamless healthcare services to patients, a vertical integration of the medical institutions took place, such as the integration of clinics and nursing care facilities.

Under the umbrella of non-profit organizations (NPOs), there are various peripheral services organizations that generate profit. The NPO re-invests profits earned by such services into the local community healthcare programs, thus enhancing the quality of overall regional medical services. Recognizing these U.S. developments, we in Japan should come up with all kinds of service deployments, such as partnerships between hospitals, or providing a broader range of healthcare services within one organization.

When thinking about the future of the medical sector in Japan, it is critical to focus on the "service content" as well as its "quality." I often hear that Japan's world-highest longevity rate indicates the excellent quality of medical care here. On the other hand, I am also aware of the frequent discussion lately of the "Best Hospitals" ranking. I believe this shows that people are seeking better medical institutions and a higher quality of services. Noting this point, I think it would be appropriate for us to closely benchmark and evaluate our medical sector against those of foreign countries and seek to enhance Japan's medical service level even further.

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