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Japan’s got a Plan to Boost its Medical Tourism Sector

Japan’s got a Plan to Boost its Medical Tourism Sector

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Japan is one of the world’s great tourism destinations and in 2014 nearly 14 million international travelers visited there for its rich history and culture, ultramodern urban centers, and striking natural beauty.

But Okinawa’s famous beaches, Tokyo’s bustling downtown, and the countryside’s blooming cherry blossoms aren’t the only reasons why tourists head to the Land of the Rising Sun.  Japan is also a premier port of call for more prudential reasons.

The advanced medical tourism in Japan attracts scores of overseas patients each year with its award-winning hospitals, cutting-edge oncology care, and profusion of other medical specialties.  But the competition for health and wellness travelers’ attention is fierce in this part of world, so robust state support is crucial.

And that’s just what the Japanese healthcare industry is getting from the government’s 2015 Japan Revitalization Strategy.

It’s a new plan that aims to open up the country’s heavily regulated medical sector to foreigners, and it hopes to succeed by touting the services that are most unique to the Japanese healthcare system and most sought after by patients from abroad.

These would include things like comprehensive medical checkups, state-of-the-art orthopedic care, and regenerative treatments using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS).  In order to deliver hi-tech procedures such as iPS on a grand scale, however, more hospitals need to become involved in the efforts to boost inbound medical tourism.

The revitalization plan will address the relative paucity of healthcare facilities who are actively courting health and wellness travelers by publishing and marketing a list of accredited hospitals striving to service foreign patients, such as St. Luke’s International Hospital.

It has an international department that welcomed 21,000 foreign patients in 2014 and is one of the 13 Joint Commission International (JCI)-accredited hospitals in Japan.  And in addition to making the names of accredited hospitals available to medical tourists, there will be an effort to certify medical tourism facilitators as well.

They are the agencies that help coordinate all aspects of your medical tourism trip, including matching you up with the right overseas hospital and providing things like translation services and medical records transfer.  Establishing a roster of reliable agencies will go a long way toward helping compete with the big boys like Singapore, Thailand, and India.

Another way the campaign hopes to increase awareness of Japan’s excellent hospitals and healthcare options is to expand overseas.  Facilities meeting Japanese standards, but operating in other countries, is an innovative spin on medical tourism and a novel way to help where there are patients in need.

So while it’s most certainly true that Japan has much to offer medical tourists, at present it trails a bit behind the Asian bellwethers and their worldwide renown: South Korea’s cosmetic surgery, Taiwan’s fertility centers, and Thailand’s dental and anti-aging clinics.

The new campaign hopes to change that for the betterment of the Japanese economy, and of course for the benefit of medical tourists like you.