Will Mobile Medical Services Save Japan From The Global Economic Downturn?

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Economists point out that expanding domestic demand and encouraging consumption are the highest priorities in getting us out of this economic downturn. IT Strategic Headquarters, the arm of Japan’s Cabinet which oversees which IT platforms will most benefit the country in the future, has suggested a three-year stimulus package including further deployment of broadband applications in the medical industry.

The Obama administration has also included the deployment of an electronic medical record system in its 21st century new deal. There are high expectations that this industry is a key to pushing the world economy into a better state.

The Mobile Computing Promotion Consortium, or MCPC, which was formed by giant systems integrators and telecommunications companies in Japan, holds an annual grand prize awards ceremony to highlight innovative and unique service models using mobile technologies. This year’s ceremony is scheduled to be held on March 19th, and a mobile medical record management system is nominated for the Communication Minister’s award.

The service is named “Pocket Karte[J]” (Karte means “card” in German, and this usually means a medical record in Japanese) and was co-developed with mobile carrier Willcom, Sustainable Community Center Japan[J] (a health and welfare-oriented NPO organized by a number of university professors), Apius[J] (a medical records ASP), and Medical Communication[J] (a mobile application developer).

The service allows you to check your medical records with a PHS handset, and it also makes it easier for medical practitioners and paramedics to get your detailed medical history. Some people expect the service to contribute to further medical studies by analyzing the collected records, and to be essential to encourage preventive medicine in an aging society such as Japan.

The service started last October and gathered more than 10,000 users by the end of January. The current version lets you manage your medical examination certificates and letters of introduction to/from other medical practitioners, and the next version will also support browsing your prescription drug history, and browsing medical records published by more than 100 hospitals and clinics nationwide.

Willcom is the only PHS operator in Japan, and it has more than 4.5 million subscribers as of the end of February according to the Telecommunications Carriers Association of Japan.

(Note: Cellphone handsets can cause problems because of their higher-strength signals, so many medical facilities restrict their use. Therefore, “Pocket Karte” is designed exclusively for PC and PHS access, and is not available on cellphone handsets. Since the signal strength of PHS devices is lower than that of cellphone handsets, medical personnel are usually permitted to use them in hospitals and ambulances.)

(Proofread by: Sean O’Hagan)

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Masaru IKEDA has co-founded several system integration companies and consulting firms in Tokyo. He has been contributing serial columns to nationwide newspapers and IT periodicals, also he's currently serving as tech consultant for several web companies. His biography is here. His private blog is here.

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Masaru IKEDA

Masaru IKEDA has co-founded several system integration companies and consulting firms in Tokyo. He has been contributing serial columns to nationwide newspapers and IT periodicals, also he's currently serving as tech consultant for several web companies. His biography is here. His private blog is here.