Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin companies with health care technology may find opportunities in Japan.
Japan is considered the No. 1 country in the world for technological expertise, yet it lags behind in the use of information technology in health care.
The 2021 Best Countries Report by U.S. News and World Report, the BAV Group and Wharton Business College rates Japan at the top of the list for tech, followed by South Korea, China and the U.S. But the report noted that not every resident of a country is able to take advantage of the benefits of technology in health care.
For example, telemedicine is rare throughout Japan, medical software applications fall significantly behind the U.S., and few rural hospitals use internet-based systems or electronic medical record evaluation.
That may reflect the fact that security and privacy protections are still big concerns in Japan, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. In addition, Japanese medical associations believe that for first-time medical appointments, only a small number of diseases can be diagnosed through an online consultation.
A January 2022 report by the U.S. trade office says while in-person medical care visits exceed 10 million per month in Japan, only 10,000 telemedicine appointments are held in an average month—and that came about only because restrictions were eased at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
The report also says the U.S. approves about five times as many products that involves software as a medical device, such as those that use artificial intelligence or machine learning.
Meanwhile, according to the Japanese Association of Rural Medicine, a 2020 survey of rural clinics across Japan showed that only 19% of them used telemedicine or conducted electronic health record evaluations, while 82% of ambulatory clinics in rural areas of the U.S. have used the internet for electronic health records.
Japan’s government expects more use of information technology in medical care and in home nursing care, with more regional cooperation on sharing the data, according to the U.S. International Trade Administration.
Japan has been taking steps to improve the regulatory review process for medical devices, including standalone medical software.
- In November 2020, it launched a strategy called Digital Transformation Action Strategies in Healthcare for software as a medical device.
- In April 2021, it established an office dedicated to medical software development, similar to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- In June 2021, Japan’s Cabinet approved a policy that called on the government to promote the development and commercialization of software as a medical device.
While these policies are being implemented to support and encourage Japanese companies, U.S. firms with state-of-the-art medical software products stand to benefit as well if they can offer Japan the latest in health software technology.