Giving patients equal access to medical treatment is easier said than done, especially when foreign patients are involved. And with Japan set to host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020, addressing the challenge has taken on greater significance.

Despite an expected rise in demand for professional medical interpreters, medical experts say Japan does not have an effective mechanism to train interpreters in the knowledge and skills required of the profession, and that the perception of medical interpretation as an unstable career must also change.

The same situation appears to hold true for other nations in the region that see more room for improvement in medical services for foreigners, and in "medical tourism" as a tool to help their economic growth.