Regarding the Jan. 10 editorial “Improving medical services“: In order to achieve better medical services, Japan needs to create an effective family medicine system. Because of (1) distorted medical school curricula that place too much weight on specialization and (2) an educational system that enables few physicians to learn primary care, Japan lacks a sufficient number of family physicians even as more and more attention is paid to family medicine.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11 and the subsequent nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture, an increasing number of people in disaster-hit areas suffered from a variety of health problems including stress-related illness. Radiology specialists, primary care physicians and even general practitioners are paying attention to the importance of family medicine because preventive measures such as health consultation and mental care offered on a daily basis have turned out to be indispensable.
Developing professional family physicians who cooperate in information-sharing with specialists at general hospitals would streamline medical services. They might help reduce the soaring medical expenses associated with (1) patients’ strong preference for specialists in large hospitals and (2) the unnecessary duplication of medical consultation and clinical testing.
Moreover, strategic distribution of family physicians would relieve the problems caused by the serious doctor shortage.
Increasing the number of medical schools alone will never solve Japan’s problem because Japan lacks control over the allocation of medical resources. According to a survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2009, the average number of family physicians was 0.9 for every 1,000 people, while the number of specialists was 1.8. This means that Japan needs around 90,000 family physicians across the country. Setting clear numerical targets for family physicians is essential.
For truly patient-centered treatment, society needs family physicians who acquire technical skills, extensive knowledge and communication skills to understand the background of patients.
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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