What can we learn from Japan’s healthcare technology revolution?

12 December, 2018

Japan’s plan to revolutionise its healthcare system through the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data is set to be an example for other countries.

Japan has always been a frontrunner in the development and use of new technology. There are pressing issues within Japan’s economy such as economic slowdown and an aging population, both leading to a rise in healthcare expenditure. These factors are going to affect the country’s growth in the coming decades, therefore, focusing on technology is more important than ever. Effective use of technologies including big data can bring revolutionary changes by improving operational efficiency at various stages of healthcare delivery while also reducing costs and benefitting patients.

Healthcare was recognised as one of the major priority sectors to begin overhauling in 2016 under the ‘Japan Revitalization Strategy 2016 – Towards the Fourth Industrialization’.

 Three focus areas were identified as part of this strategy

  • Using big data to provide diagnosis support and innovative new drugs and medical devices.
  • Providing personalized healthcare services using the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Improving the quality and productivity of nursing care by using technologies such as robots and sensors. 


Next-generation medical infrastructure law

The Japanese government recently implemented Jisedai Iryo-kiban Ho (next-generation medical infrastructure law) which allows medical big data to be used anonymously for research related to diseases and the development of new drugs. Data privacy has been given a high priority under this new law, be it for collection or sharing. The data sharing aspect is especially critical as concerns were raised in the UK after sensitive healthcare data of up to 1.6 million patients were shared with Google in 2017. 

Medical Information Database Network

Japan has also completed the Medical Information Database Network (MID-NET) Project, a new medical information database network to be used for safety assessment by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) and the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA). The approach would be based on pharmaco-epidemiological methods using real-world data.

The MID-NET database captures medical information including laboratory test results, claim data and prospective payment data for four million acute in-patients. MID-NET will further help to improve and streamline the drug development process and reduce the time for approval of both drugs and new medical devices in Japan.

In addition to the new law and MID-NET, Japan aims to invest more than US$100m  to establish 10 AI-based hospitals by 2022 to help tackle the problems of rising medical expenditure and a lack of medical personnel. 

Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, Prashant Khadayate says: “Japan really wants to re-iterate its leadership position in the technology field. Emphasis on technology in healthcare will create new dimensions for pharma and medical devices companies. With all these initiatives, Japan is well poised to create a new healthcare system which could soon be an exemplar for other countries.”