International Exchange of Medical Information

Accidents happen. While travelling, tourists can become sick or injured. People might need medical treatment in a foreign country. And with an increasing number of people travelling abroad for medical procedures, we are beginning to see a change in the way medical information is stored and exchanged.

In the past, the onus of medical record keeping often fell to the patient. When consulting a specialist, or changing doctors, the patient needed to obtain and bring along copies of their medical records. In many areas, or when travelling abroad for a medical procedures, patients are still required to provide and manage their own medical records to ensure their healthcare professionals are all up-to-date. Or in the event of illness, accident or injury when travelling, the patient may not have access to their medical records – or can only obtain them through lengthy procedures requiring authorizations that the patient may not be physically able to provide due to the nature of their injury.

With the advances in technology and digital record-keeping, more and more doctors have migrated to a Health Information Exchange (HIE) which allows the electronic movement of patient information between different organizations.

Records can be accessed by health professionals community-wide, within a specific hospital network or even – as in the province of Ontario – across an entire region. This allows for more timely access to clinical information, and leads to more efficient and effective patient-care. Organizations, sometimes supported directly by government offices, are emerging that focus on creating HIEs nationwide and even worldwide.

Once HIEs are implemented on a planetary scale, medical tourists will no longer need to provide their specialist with a paper copy of their medical records; any medical professional with the necessary credentials could potentially access the relevant information. Further, they would not need to bring back records of the procedures and medications received abroad.

Organizations like Health Level Seven (HL7) International are dedicated to building a framework that will standardize and regulate the exchange, integration, sharing and retrieval of electronic health information; they aim to support clinical practices and better the management, delivery and evaluation of health services.

Over time, we will be able to establish a super-directory of medical records so that information can be shared across international border in a timely manner. This will also prevent important details from being lost in translation as any follow-ups or verifications can be handled at a moment’s notice. The future of medical record keeping will be patient-friendly and ensure that their medical professionals can offer the best care with the most precision and the shortest delays.

What is Medical Tourism?

Canadians travel to every corner of the planet – we are avid tourists, explorers and connoisseurs of the delights of foreign travel. And sometimes, we may access medical care while travelling; this might be due to a medical emergency such as illness or injury, but there is an increasing trend toward medical tourism, also known as medical travel or health tourism.

A medical tourist visits another country in order to receive medical care that is either unavailable or for which there may be an extended wait in their region. The Canadian government suggests steps to take for anyone contemplating a trip abroad for medical reasons: first, discuss your medical care plans with your Canadian healthcare provider before leaving and follow up when you return; ensure that your health insurance covers medical procedures in other countries; verify the risks, if any, of airline travel after your chosen procedure, and bring back copies of any medical records, including the procedure you underwent, medications you received, and the results of any medical tests. It is vitally important that you be informed about the source of any tissues or organs if you undergo a transplant abroad. Also, you should consult a health care provider upon your return to Canada if you suffer from chronic illness, were treated for malaria while travelling, or experience any other illness such as fever, jaundice, skin disorders, urinary or genital infections, vomiting, or persistent diarrhea.

Many people are travelling between Canada and Japan as medical tourists; both countries offer excellent medical care with particular areas of expertise. While the Japanese are known for innovative medical technology and rigorous study, Canadian schools of medicine offer training in some of the most advanced forms of medical care available worldwide. Specialized travel insurance policies allow foreign patients to travel to Tokyo or any other large Japanese city with major medical facilities to undergo specialty testing, procedures and medical treatments such as surgeries, biopsies and transplants.

While the wealthy and powerful have, for years, travelled the globe for the best and most innovative medical care, increasing globalization and reduced-cost travel options have made medical tourism a possibility for the average Canadian. And it is a very lucrative industry; in some countries the medical industry is the largest source of income, and opening it to foreign patients allow them to multiply their revenue.

Promoting foreign exchange, the global economy, and good diplomatic relations in addition to providing quality healthcare, for many, medical tourism is truly the way of the future.

Comparing the Japaneses and Canadian Healthcare Systems

A recent study by the Fraser Institute compared the Canadian healthcare system to 27 other universal healthcare programs worldwide; its co-author, Bacchus Barua, stated that though Canadians spend a lot for the universal healthcare system, it compares poorly to that of other countries as it “generally has fewer resources, a mixed record on the quality of care patients receive, and remarkably long wait times.”

Ontario’s Health Minister, Dr. Eric Hoskins, considers their system among the best in the world, and a 2015 Conference Board of Canada report ranks it 7th best in the world – placing it ahead of Japan, Germany, the UK and the US. Canada’s system is the 3rd most expensive on the planet, and yet ranked only 24th for the availability of physicians and 15th for that of nurses. We had the least amount of acute care beds of all 28 countries examined, and our quantity of psychiatric care beds falls far below Japan (ranking 25th and 1st, respectively). Japan also had the most MRIs and CT units, while Canada ranked below the average in 18th place.

The Legatum Institute, based in London, prepares an annual global Prosperity Index every November; one of the nine sub-indices ranks the health of each country’s population. They use 3 key components: the country’s basic mental and physical health, the health infrastructure, and the availability of preventative care. From the 5th spot in 2016, Canada dropped to 24th in 2017 while Japan rose from 22nd in 2016 to 4th in 2017.

Nadeem Esmail, a Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute wrote in 2013 that Japan outperformed Canada on five of eight measures of healthcare performance, while Canada led Japan on only one of the eight measures. He suggests that Canadians could learn much from the Japanese health care system – though emulating their approach would require substantial reform of our own, including a shift away from tax-funded government insurance.

The Japanese Health care model includes cost sharing for all forms of medical services as well as activity-based funding for hospital care and a system of statutory independent insurers that provide universal services to their clientele on a primarily premium-funded basis, which is commonly known as a social insurance system. Japan permits privately funded parallel health care and the provision of acute care hospital and surgical clinic services is largely private. As per Barua’s report, there may currently be an imbalance between the high cost of the Canadian healthcare system and the value received by its users and their access to resources. Clearly, it may be time to update the decades-old Canadian Universal Healthcare system.

Health Trends in Canada

In one of the world’s largest developed countries, free healthcare has been readily available to the entire population for 50 years – and for those with private supplemental health insurance, or who are willing to pay private practitioners, services can be obtained quickly and easily. However, as the cost of healthcare increases, we will begin to see a shift in private health insurance – which covers all “non-essential” treatments such as dental, vision and chiropractic care as well as prescription drug costs.

The Canadian healthcare industry is currently booming, as substantial investments are being made privately and in the public sector. Additionally, as in other parts of the world, more people are turning to alternative medicines and health supplements, which can be quite costly if not included in a private health insurance plan – plans which are, themselves, sometimes cost prohibitive for the average Canadian who doesn’t have health benefits through an employer, leading people to forego some health services altogether.

Also, the population is shifting: while the percentage of people over age 65 is growing quickly, that of people under 14 is decreasing as Canadians choose to have fewer children. Therefore, though most seniors are in good health with a life expectancy of 79 for men and 85 years for women, we are seeing an increased need for senior healthcare services. Further, as more and more medical professionals are retiring, and fewer young people are stepping into their positions, we will soon see a shortage in available healthcare personnel.

And while there will always be users of the traditional healthcare system, there is a rise in “self-diagnoses” using online tools, and “self-prescriptions” of alternative care, or fad diets to improve overall health. Some, like the rise in veganism and the juicing trend, can – if not followed properly – actually cause gaps in nutrition or excesses in sugar intake.

Canadians’ schedules are fuller than they have ever been, and we’re increasingly looking for the quick fix – and with today’s online solutions, a rise in the numbers and visibility of diet and exercises gurus are making that possible. Why spend 45-60 minutes getting exercise when a 7-minute Crossfit circuit can target the whole body more quickly and efficiently? Why prepare a meal when you can drink a green smoothie or protein shake? While natural healthcare is an admirable choice, we haven’t had enough exposure to study the long-term effects it may have on an individual’s overall health even when done right, let alone followed sporadically by internet enthusiasts.

Health Trends in Japan

Japan prides itself on being at the forefront of technology and innovation. They have streamlined homes with integrated storage and automated systems, computerized public toilets, and their health trends are no less advanced. As Japan is an ageing society, with a declining birth rates, the ageing population has led to a strong nationwide drive toward overall health and wellness. For the past 3 decades, Japan has hosted an annual Health Industry Show where more than 500 exhibitors will be divided into 5 zones: Health Food & Supplements, Health Equipment & Health Care, Beauty & Aging Care, Sports Conditioning, and Organic & Natural Products.

Though food safety is a concern due to nuclear radiation and a proliferation of tainted food warnings worldwide, there is a growing need for ready-to-eat products and more convenient meals. In single-person and elderly households, there is a need for individual food products that allow personalization. As such, the Japanese diet has greatly diversified and the population seem increasingly willing to try new products.

Japanese companies are focussing more now on the business of Inner Beauty – selling ever-increasing amounts of natural health products and supplements such as healthy drinks; as a result, the average Japanese life expectancy has increased to 72.14 years for men and 74.79 for women. Changes in food regulations over the past year and the more relaxed Food with Functions Claims have increased the potential to market foods with health benefits – and not just allergen-friendly or organic foods – one cooking oil is advertised as contributing to lower cholesterol levels.

A recent trend toward warming the body from the inside has developed as more than 80% of Japanese women are concerned about their sensitivity to cold. Many forms of thermotherapy have come to light, such as Onkatsu (using food and drink to warm the body from the inside out), Onnetsu (using physical stimulation from far infrared to warm up the body and helps blood circulation), and Onyoku (hot baths); the physiological benefits of Heat Shock Protein (HSP) are drawing the attention of Japanese health experts. HSP is believed to increase the level of protein in the body, help repair injured cells, and even control the production of lactic acid.

As pollution and smog levels continue to rise, health accessories such as air and water purifiers remain trendy, as do state-of-the-art sports conditioning equipment like specialized athletic wear, training equipment, and sports nutrition. It will be exciting to see what the future holds for healthcare in Japan.

Medical Tourism between Canada and Japan

Canada Japan medical tourismA great many people travel back and forth between Canada and Japan in pursuit of medical tourism. Medical tourism is the act of traveling to another country or region to receive a type of medical care that wasn’t available in their place of origin. Canada and Japan are both countries with reputations for having excellent medical care. Canadian schools of medicine train their medical professionals in some of the most advanced forms of medical care that are available in the modern world. Japanese schools of medicine are known for their innovative medical technology and their rigorous courses of study. Both countries offer significant benefits in medical treatment.

The trend of medical tourism is an important one to global society. It makes a true global marketplace out of the medical field and neutralizes borders, allowing people to travel between countries for beneficial reasons. They receive the healthcare they need while the country providing the healthcare receives useful revenue. It paves a way for countries to exchange information on medical practices and cooperate with one another to turn their healthcare industries into a global marketplace.

People often travel back and forth between Japan and Canada for the purpose of benefiting from both country’s medical systems. Both countries have different specialties and areas of expertise. Both are world renowned for what they do best. Canadians are fortunate to live under the socialized medical system that they have, and the Japanese are taken care of well in that they only have to pay for 30-percent of their medical costs. Both country’s systems try to extend affordable healthcare to their citizens and residents. In other countries, someone may have to pay a significant fee to see a doctor with as much expertise as a Canadian or Japanese doctor have.

Canadian Healthcare

healthcare in CanadaThe healthcare in Canada is known far and wide for being accessible and of high quality. Canadian healthcare is either free or for a minimal fee, depending on the rules of the province. Canada has provided socialized medicine to its residents and citizens for many years, and is known as being the best run medical system in North America. When the United States converted its medical system to Obamacare and made healthcare more socialized, it was largely modeling its new system on the Canadian system. Canadian healthcare even comes with a zero dollar premium for low income individuals. Regardless of age, income, status or any other demographic qualifier, Canadian healthcare serves its residents and citizens with total healthcare coverage.

Canadian doctors are known as some of the best in the world. Doctors who study in Canada are welcome anywhere in the world for employment. One negative side of the Canadian healthcare system is that it has a hard time retaining its best doctors. Socialized healthcare pays socialized income to doctors, which is much less impressive than the privatized medical salaries in the United States and other countries where healthcare is more privatized. This makes the doctor to patient ratio somewhat strained. However, the doctors who do represent Canadian medical practices are of the best caliber and have a worldwide reputation for accuracy and knowledge. This applies to Canada’s mental health care provisions as well, which are not always covered by socialized insurance, but which are made as accessible as possible to the people.

The Canadian healthcare system is not perfect. Some people criticize it for modeling some of its practices after the privatized system of the United States. For example, a variety of specialized health insurance policies are available to Canadians which gives them access to healthcare services that are not included in their provincial healthcare, some of which are arguably quite necessary. This is an impetus for people to invest heavily into private insurance instead of solely relying on their government provided healthcare. While some criticize this measure, others, who are fans of capitalism, praise this initiative.

The Rise of Medical Tourism

medical tourism trendMedical tourism is a recent trend, relatively speaking. People of status and power have long been making treks to remote locations for unique medical care. But only recently, with flights affordable to most economic classes and more modes of travel available than ever before in history, has medical tourism become a trend of global culture. Globalization has affected earth’s population in more ways than we can even measure, and the way that people receive medical care is included in that trend. With travel so accessible, many are turning to the logical conclusion that if another country can meet one’s healthcare needs better than their own country, why not travel?

Medical tourism has risen in popularity during the past few decades. Foreign travel insurance policies are written more carefully than ever before, and include more benefits to travelers than any other time in history. There are even some nations that open up their healthcare provision to foreigners without an insurance policy. This is because medical tourism is not just a public service, it is also a very lucrative industry. For some countries, their medical industry is their biggest money maker, where as many of the rest of their industries struggle significantly in the global marketplace. By opening their medical industry up to foreigners, they can multiply the revenue that their medical industry brings in. This creates a win/win situation for the country and for the travelers seeking medical care.

Medical tourism is the way of the future. It is a practice that promotes good foreign relations and diplomacy. The medical field has long been a neutral, peaceful vehicle between countries, even ones that have a negative relationship. Even two countries that are warring with one another have long been known to harbor each other’s medical professionals. The practice of medicine is universally something that harms no one and helps everyone, which makes the medical industry a neutral arena even between two opposing bodies.

Japanese Healthcare

healthcare JapanThe healthcare in Japan is of high repute. The healthcare system in Japan is set up so that those who are insured, meaning citizens and residents, take on 30-percent of the healthcare costs and the government takes on the remaining 70-percent. The healthcare provided in Japan is very inclusive of every demographic and allows a majority of people quality coverage. Japanese citizens and residents think highly of their healthcare system, as a whole, and are proud to model it to other developing Asian nations.

Japan has long been a country of innovation and scholarship. Their medical industry is highly advanced and well respected. Doctors who study in Japan study under some of the best schools in Eastern medical practices. Japan is home to several historic schools of medicine that are world renowned for their medical expertise. The Japanese culture is also one that esteems hard work, dedication and focus, which makes their schools of medicine and medical practices some of the best in the world. A doctor who studies in Japan can go anywhere in the world for employment.

Medical tourism to Japan is a frequent practice to take advantage of its top level medical industry. Travel insurance policies are available to foreigners who want to take advantage of Japan’s medical practices by traveling to Tokyo or other cities containing major medical facilities. Japanese doctors perform specialty procedures and treatments, including surgeries, biopsies, transplants and specialty testing.

If you are able to travel to Asia and are in need of quality medical care, consider Japan for your healthcare needs. Their doctor’s are some of the best in the world and are able to perform whatever type of procedure you are in need of. Japan is an innovative place full of cutting edge industries and the medical industry is no exception. Book your flight to Japan today!