January 31, 2017 5:00 pm JST

Japan to steer medical tourists to 'international' hospitals

List of 28 recommend facilities meant to help patients find foreigner-friendly care

The University of Tokyo Hospital, located on the school's main campus.

TOKYO -- Japan's government will recommend hospitals as destinations for inbound medical tourists, starting with a list of 28 facilities scattered across much of the country.

Dubbed "international hospitals," these locations will be communicated to governments and medical institutions overseas via Japan's diplomatic missions and embassies. Also provided will be information concerning testing, treatment, advanced medicine and other services available at each hospital.

The list, which will be updated every three years, was prepared by Medical Excellence Japan, a government-affiliated foundation set up to promote the globalization of Japan's medical services.

MEJ considered such factors as a facility's number of specialists and whether it could provide cost estimates for procedures before patients make the trip.

This first group of 28 includes the teaching hospitals affiliated with the University of Tokyo and Osaka University. Also on the list are Keio University Hospital, St. Luke's International Hospital, and Toranomon Hospital, all located in Tokyo; Sendai Kousei Hospital in the northeastern city of Sendai; Fujita Health University Hospital near Nagoya; and Fukuoka Kinen Hospital in the southwestern city. The recommend facilities stretch from Hokuto Hospital on the northern island of Hokkaido to as far south as Yonemori Hospital in Kagoshima.

Japan issued about 950 official medical visas in 2015 -- a 13-fold increase in just four years. Many foreigners also come to Japan for medical care on tourist visas.

With medical tourism on the rise for both examinations and treatments, the Japanese government seeks to put a system in place that helps people receive medical services in the hospitals that are best prepared to provide that care. By compiling a nationwide list, Japan can steer medical tourists away from hospitals that are ill-prepared to treat them. Foreign patients can be distributed among hospitals across Japan instead of being concentrated in certain areas.

Foreigners seeking medical care in Japan usually make direct contact with hospitals. To ease this burden on the hospitals, the Japanese government will also promote a system whereby companies like travel agency JTB can be certified as medical travel assistants.

(Nikkei)

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