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Japan to build nationwide healthcare network to address ageing population

Japan’s Government will be connecting all hospitals, clinics and pharmacies nationwide as part of broader plans to address Japan’s ageing population problem, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has told FutureGov.

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Yasushi Yoshida, Director General for ICT Strategic Policy Planning at the Ministry, told FutureGov that the government wants to increase the adoption of electronic health records by small and medium-sized hospitals. “Many big hospitals have already introduced electronic health record systems. But it’s not easy for medium to small hospitals to introduce this because of the expenditure involved,” he said.

The government is encouraging these hospitals to use cloud technology to minimise costs: “We are recommending to medium to small hospitals to use more efficient systems using cloud, since the cost is lower,” he said.

Japan’s government is faced with the challenge of providing healthcare for a “super-ageing society” and the government is looking at how ICT can be used to collect and analyse healthcare Big Data to address the issue, he added.

It plans for a longer-term project to improve data collection and analysis by building a nationwide network connecting all hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and nursing centres.

Yoshida explained the current situation: hospitals are connected to a cluster of clinics around them, and there are 150 such clusters across the country. However, these clusters are not connected with each other and information flows only one way from the hospital to the clinics.

“In the future, we would like to connect all hospitals nationwide”, including connecting the hospital-clinic clusters with each other, Yoshida said. “We would like more hospitals and clinics to participate in the network. Information should flow both ways,” he added. The government also plans to include pharmacies and nursing centres in the network, as they are currently excluded from the clusters, he said.

Although there is no official target for the completion of the network, Yoshida hopes to see it completed in the next five years. “It’s very difficult to accomplish that goal in five years,” he warned.

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