EDITORIAL: Analyze, Utilize 'Big Data' to Ensure Appropriate Medical Costs, Quality

The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), September 9, 2014 | Go to article overview

EDITORIAL: Analyze, Utilize 'Big Data' to Ensure Appropriate Medical Costs, Quality


While continuing to enhance the quality of medical services, curbs should be placed on swelling medical expenses. This is a challenge that our super-graying society cannot avoid tackling.

Utilizing vast amounts of medical service-related data has drawn attention recently as a reliable means of helping achieve cost-efficient services. The data include those contained in medical treatment expense statements or detailed breakdowns of medical bills issued to individuals by hospitals, pharmacies and related institutions.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is in charge of administering "big data" such as those relating to medical treatment expense statements and findings in medical checkups. This amounts to 8.2 billion pieces of information.

To examine specific ways of utilizing the data and methods of analyzing them, the government has set up an expert study panel under the Headquarters for the Promotion of Social Security System Reform. The panel started deliberations on the issue in August.

Analysis of the big data will make it possible to ascertain regional trends in illnesses and medical services. Based on such findings, it may also become possible to prevent illnesses from developing or keep symptoms from becoming serious, while helping rein in excess provision of medical services.

In addition, analysis of big data will make it possible to predict future needs in health care services and the number of hospital beds necessary, through estimated demographic changes and projected morbidity rates. The studies' findings are expected to motivate adjustments in the number of hospitals and hospital beds in different areas.

It is reasonable to use objective data to prompt medical institutions to provide appropriate medical services.

Based on the law enacted in June for comprehensive promotion of medical and nursing care services, prefectural governments, including those in Tokyo and Hokkaido, will prepare visions for their regional health care services, incorporating projections about needs for medical services and the number of hospitals needed as of 2025. Big data are essential for crafting adequate future visions of regional medical services. …

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