National

App helps non-Japanese find multilingual medical services

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Are you on the hunt for an English-speaking doctor in Tokyo? A handy smartphone app aims to help foreign residents and visitors easily find multilingual medical services.

Japan Hospital Guide, released by Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Japan Medical Support System For Visitors From Abroad (JaMSSVA), shows locations of hospitals and clinics with multilingual staff on a GPS map.

Clicking an icon on the map displays which languages staff members speak, the distance to the facility and what kind of medical services are available.

The app also lists the institution’s phone number and hours of operation.

Available languages are shown using ISO-based codes, such as EN for English and ZH for simplified Chinese.

About 300 multilingual hospitals and clinics are currently listed. Most are in Tokyo and English is the most common language available.

Many of drug store chain Matsumoto Kiyoshi’s locations are also shown on the map.

There are plans to register more hospitals and clinics across the country, said Ichiro Matsuyoshi, a staffer at JaMSSVA.

The app was launched in November last year to help hospitals in Japan cope with a surging number of overseas tourists.

The number of foreign tourists has more than quadrupled from 6.79 million in 2009 to 28.69 million in 2017, partly due to the easing of visa conditions for visitors from China, Thailand, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

The government aims to boost that figure to 40 million by 2020 and 60 million by 2030, or about three times the level in 2015.

Most foreign tourists who need medical services suffer only minor illnesses or injuries while in Japan, and the app is designed to help tourists find facilities where they can be treated, Matsuyoshi said.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government offers a similar multilingual service on its website called Himawari.

The website can be translated into English, Chinese and Korean, and helps users find hospitals with multilingual staff in the capital.