“Digitalizing” the healthcare sector in Japan.


    In an age where people spend most of their time on electronic devices, the question is why don’t we take advantage of that to “digitize” the healthcare industry? According to Japan Today newspaper, the country of the Rising Sun is gradually joining this “digital health” revolution.

The concept of “digital health” may be new to many people, but interest in it is growing rapidly in Japan. According to Japan Today, investment in medical technology in Japan grew by 59% between 2015 and 2016, and in 2017 more than 400 news articles appeared on the industry-specific website Nikkei Digital Health while Google had to respond to 7.7 million searches for the term “digital health” in Japanese.

* What is “digitization” of healthcare?

At a recently held event, Ryohei Goto, partner of US global management consulting firm AT Kearney praised Japan’s growth potential in the field of digital health, its impact on patients and the medical community, along with the solutions that the Japanese Government can best support these initiatives.

Talking about new advancements in the digital health industry, Mr. Goto highlighted the cooperation between Amazon Corporation and pharmaceutical company Merck & Co in integrating Alexa “virtual assistant” technology into diabetes treatment. Street. Accordingly, instead of waiting for the nurse or smartphone software to remind them to take their medicine, Alexa will let them know when they really need to take the medicine.

Another breakthrough in healthcare is the introduction of the first digital pill called Abilify MyCite. This is a joint product of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Company (Japan) and Proteus Digital Health Corporation of the US, which has been licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Abilify MyCite includes a microsensor built into the pill, a skin patch and a mobile app. When the tablet dissolves in the patient’s stomach, the sensor comes into contact with gastric juice and is activated to transmit information to the patch. This data is forwarded to an app on a smartphone or tablet, so that the doctor or family member can keep a close eye on the treatment situation. After completing the task, the sensor will be safely excreted through the digestive tract.

It is known that this sensor has been applied to administer drugs to treat diseases such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression or mania… Often these patients often skip the prescribed dose, due to That improved monitoring can ensure patients adhere to the treatment regimen, speeding up the recovery process.

* Benefits in disease prevention and treatment.

According to Mr. Goto, adherence to treatment regimens is a big problem in Japan. An estimated 30% of people diagnosed with lifestyle diseases stop taking their medication within 6 months. The reason is because they do not want to take too much medicine for a long time but the effect is not as expected. This situation not only wastes patients’ money but also causes 10-15% damage to the Japanese pharmaceutical industry. Furthermore, patients receiving mental health care are the most dissatisfied with drug treatment. Therefore, the advent of products such as the Abilify MyCite digital pill or mobile applications that allow patients to reduce their dependence on drugs while still having better control of the disease is much expected.

Not only improving the quality of treatment, advances in digital healthcare services also help people prevent disease more effectively. For example, the testing system being developed by the biotech company Euglena helps individuals better understand their genomes. Specifically, with a saliva sample taken at home and taken to a risk factor testing center, Euglena can help filter data and connect customers with a healthcare provider or doctor. specialists to better analyze the risk of disease. While the test is simple and costs about $200, Goto said, it could significantly reduce the cost of lifelong treatment.

* Expense .

Promoting the healthcare model through digital tools is gaining traction in Japan. Currently, the total funding for the healthcare sector in Japan is around $799 billion but only 181 billion of that is likely to go towards digital, data, information and communication technologies. But with ready-to-invest capital resources plus significant savings in costs of care and treatment for people in the future, Mr. Goto believes that the “digitization” of digital health services is available. There is great opportunity in Japan – a country with an aging population but a leader in medical innovation, towards more economical prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

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