Japan has a long history of health industry success and innovation. Consistently ranking in the top ten countries for quality of its universal healthcare system, Japan has also taken great strides to invent new medical technologies. As such, the island nation has become a destination for medical tourism, as well as public officials and academics who wish to learn in order to improve health systems in their home nations.
For centuries, Japan had followed the medicinal traditions of China. This was until the 1800’s, with the beginning of the Meiji restoration, where Japan adopted and standardized the use of western medicine. From that point on, the economy of Japan began to boom, as well as the island’s population. The need to cover the health of the growing population became an important priority and during the time period of 1922 to 1945, two programs were introduced that set the foundation for Japan’s universal healthcare system; the Employees’ Health Insurance Law and Community-based Health Insurance law. These programs lead to not only insuring every individual who was employed, but also those in informal sectors like farming. Finally to help ensure maximum coverage, benefits such as healthcare were subsidized by the government, leading to maximum compliance.
In recent years, the implementation of universal healthcare has been a tremendous benefit to the country and has played a role in Japan’s population being healthier and living longer. The healthcare system has helped to assure that basically everyone has access to the medical help that they need and this has played a pivotal role in maximizing the percentage of individuals that make it into their senior years. Japan currently has the highest percentage of elderly of any nation and this has led to many challenges. Naturally, an individual can only work for so long until it is in their best interest to leave the work force, and as such, every year the number of Japanese retirees increases. The depleting workforce has many ramifications, such as understaffing, increased workloads for the younger generation, and a growing time and financial burden in supporting the number of retirees. Public officials are aware of this trend and there has been an increase in financing for finding ways to meet the needs of the retired class, such as the development of companion robots that function to keep company and interact with a retiree.
Japan’s health funding and research continues to lead to other forms of medical convenience and innovation. Beyond the aforementioned companion robots, there have been many other new technologies developed such as the Toray Industries developed smart medical garments, which can reduce skin irritation that would come from certain types of medical tests that use electrodes. Furthermore, Japan had multiple scientists nominated for the Nobel Prizes, one of which was ultimately won by Japan’s own Yoshinori Osumi for his work in medicine. He discovered the mechanisms involved in autophagy, which involves the breaking down and recycling of cellular structures.
In the name of health, Japan attracts not only those searching for medical treatment, but attracts people and groups from developing nations, who come to Japan to learn about successful health systems so that they may apply the gained knowledge to the health systems in their home nations. Japan has developed learning packages about healthcare systems that are made for the purpose of educating and these packages are in high demand compared to those offered by other nations because the education modules are specific, comprehensive, and practical. Furthermore, the modules not only teach how to develop a successful healthcare system, but also how to maintain it and prepare for the inevitable demographic changes that come from improved societal health.
Expected functions of nursing care robots
Type 1.1 – Mobility assistance
Function: Helps elderly people walk.
Effect: Enables elderly people to shop on their own.
Type 1.2 – Excretion disposal
Function: Disposal into toilet near bed.
Effect: Enables elderly people with mobility difficulties to live independently.
Type 2 – Monitoring
Function: Monitoring whereabouts of elderly people via sensors, communication functions.
Effect: Ensures safety of elderly people with dementia, reassuring families.
Type 3.1 – Lifting assistance
Function: Worn by caregivers when transferring elderly people.
Effect: Reduces burden on caregivers.
Type 3.2 – Bathing assistance
Function: Helps elderly people get into and out of bathtub.
Effect: Reduces burden on caregivers.