The problem is that limits have been placed on the scope of medical institutions authorized to provide advanced medical care and the range of patients eligible for such treatment. It also takes six to seven months for each request to be examined. Given this, it is impossible to respond to patients’ compelling cases requiring advanced treatment.
Flexibility, but not without risk
The planned new system entails a large increase in the number of medical facilities authorized to offer advanced services. It will also promote cooperation between what are called clinical research core hospitals, designated by the ministry, and medical institutions in each community, so they can seek consultations with doctors at faculties close to their homes.
The system would also shorten the length of time required for approval of new advanced treatment. For instance, the time to reach a decision on a request for a new method of treatment that has not yet been applied in Japan would be reduced to six weeks, and only two weeks if there is a precedent for its use.
Requests for the approval of such treatment would be examined by the planned government panel of experts and the core hospitals.
We believe the government’s involvement in that process will guarantee a certain degree of safety regarding the use of advanced treatment.
Meanwhile, there still are some problems to be addressed in this respect. Some patient advocacy groups have expressed apprehension that patients could be treated with new advanced methods whose effectiveness is not yet fully clear. Few patients have good medical knowledge. With this in mind, doctors should take care to provide scrupulous explanations to patients so they can make appropriate decisions about whether to receive advanced care.
Another pertinent issue concerns the application of health insurance to methods of advanced medical care provided under the new system. If the safety and efficacy of such treatment is established, such treatments should be included in the list of insurance-covered medical services.