Japan eyes sharing medical data on elderly

PHOTO: Japan eyes sharing medical data on elderly

JAPAN - The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has compiled a plan to create a community-based information and communications technology (ICT) network, to enable sharing of individuals' medical and nursing care details by healthcare professionals. Information will be shared among medical institutions, doctors, pharmacies and nursing care facilities via the network, hoped to be put into service 10 years from now.

The mechanism is designed to support the "hyper-graying" of communities all over the country by making full use of ICT, according to a ministry official.

The use of ICT is also intended to prevent redundant medical examinations of individual patients, and to raise medical care levels.

Consider the hypothetical case of a dementia patient. After a doctor prescribes medicine for the patient, an operator at the patient's nursing care institution can input details of his health condition into a computer each day and read information provided by the doctor. Then, the nursing care worker can use the doctor's notes-such as "His bones are becoming weaker"-in caring for the patient, such as when helping him with bathing. If the patient is admitted to a hospital emergency unit, information from all of his treatment records can be utilized by clinicians at the emergency unit.

To implement the network, the ministry will cooperate with the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, starting from the current fiscal year, to develop regional systems to share information held by medical institutions and pharmacies such as medical treatment records and bills for medical treatment fees. They will also introduce measures to add information related to nursing care, including care levels, within five years.

The health ministry has included measures to achieve widespread use of the new ICT information-sharing network, which is also intended to be used across multiple regions.

By 2025, when the youngest of the postwar baby boomers will be 75 years old, the ministry aims to create a situation in which cancer patients and aging residents can remain comfortably in areas where they have lived for a long time and with which they are already familiar. The use of ICT is seen as key to achieving this, according to the ministry.

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