Regarding the June 29 editorial “Boosting Japan’s flagging tourism“: Medical tourism is a promising industry for kick-starting the economy. And developing professional health-care interpreters is key to this effort.
The Japanese government set up new growth strategies in June 2010, one of which was to boost medical tourism. Travel agencies produced package tours that combined sightseeing with medical examinations. Some private Japanese hospitals aggressively entered the tourist business by offering sophisticated medical checkups. As a result, the number of visitors seeking checkups, particularly from China, was soaring by the time the March 11 quake and tsunami hit the country.
Visitors reportedly were satisfied with Japan’s cutting-edge technologies, such as three-dimensional computed tomography (CT), functional magnetic resonance imaging (f-MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET), which is one of the most useful weapons for detecting small cancers. High-tech gadgetry, however, is not enough to expand medical tourism, because checkups alone do not cure disease.
In order to safely treat patients, nothing is more important than in-depth medical interviews, thorough examinations, accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and tender care. Because Japan’s medical society depends chiefly on only a handful of volunteer interpreters, it cannot accept a larger number of patients from abroad. Japan needs to develop professional health-care interpreters who are highly knowledgeable in a wide range of medicine, and proficient in languages. “Evidence-based-medicine” has gradually taken root in Japan. I believe, however, that “narrative-based-medicine,” which enormously strengthens the relationship between a patient and medical staff, is essential.
Heart-to-heart talks, combined with state-of-the-art technologies, dramatically contribute to improving people’s health. To become a health care superpower, Japan should create a society where health care interpreters are able to demonstrate their exceptional skills as real professionals.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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