• Takaoka, Toyama

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Regarding the Sept. 2 editorial “Protection of cyberspace“: In order to revive the flagging economy, Japan needs to map out the cyber-security strategies for realizing a system of sophisticated tele-medicine. Effective use of medical information technology will enable Japan to differentiate itself as a genuine health care power.

Telemedicine refers to the process by which health care providers, such as individual physicians or hospitals, cooperate with outside third parties in providing medical services. For example, the services of telemedicine include teleradiology, telepathology, and even specialist consultation in a situation where the providers do not exist in the same place.

Japanese electrical giants have produced a variety of cutting-edge technologies, such as diagnostic equipment with digital imaging. After exporting such high-tech systems to emerging countries, Japan should introduce an image transmission system with those countries. Image data as well as clinical profiles and test results of patients would be analyzed by diagnostic radiologists and clinical specialists working in Japan. This style of telemedicine would make the most of advanced medical technologies and valuable human resources in Japan without causing a brain drain of skilled medical professionals. Sophisticated use of telemedicine would benefit both patients and medical staff engaged in home health care.

It is highly likely that quality care, particularly for patients who live on an isolated island with no general hospitals or those who have to receive care at home because of physical conditions, would improve drastically, in addition to helping reduce skyrocketing health care costs by duplicating medications and clinical testing. A regulatory framework, therefore, should be created to promote outsourcing that truly enhances the value of care.

International outsourcing, on the other hand, raises concerns about quality, safety, privacy and the financial interests of providers. And outsourcing of health care is likely to raise special issues because health care is substantially influenced by complex regulations and reimbursement policies. As information privacy remains the greatest source of concern about medical outsourcing, the most important priority is risk management. The risk of a breach of privacy in telemedicine stems mainly from electronic channels vulnerable to hacking. In an era of both outsourcing and medical tourism, Japan needs to maintain high level of health care quality, and safeguard cyberspace for telemedicine.

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.

hajime ichiseki

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