Japanese demand for digital hospital tech starting to pick up

Until 2022, Japanese hospitals had been slow to adopt digital health solutions, such as EMR, likely due to high costs and low digital literacy among older doctors. In the coming years, they are expected to take up more technologies with available budget to cover demand among staff.

Global management consultant L.E.K. Consulting recently surveyed 50 hospital directors in public and private hospitals around Japan as part of its Asia-Pacific-wide annual survey of hospital executives to understand their strategic priorities and challenges.


Alongside preparing for future pandemics and improving staff safety, investing in new IT infrastructure and offering clinicians access to new medical technologies and treatments came in on top of Japanese hospitals’ strategic priorities over the next three years.

Sharing findings from a 2019 study by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, L.E.K. noted the low uptake of digital technologies among hospitals. Digital tools for remote consultation and teleradiology were the most adopted technologies around that time. 

By institution, private hospitals in Japan implement digital health solutions, especially for initial consultation and patient administration, more than public hospitals. They even readily accepted such emerging technologies as generative AI to complement their diagnosis decision-making. “Private hospitals with IT capabilities have been quick to incorporate EMR solutions for efficient patient data management,” the  report noted.

In terms of use, public hospitals leverage digital solutions to record patient information while private hospitals use them “more to push [personalised] information to patients.” 

Private hospitals highly regarded digital health for its contribution to their transition to value-based care while public hospitals found it valuable for raising the quality of care delivery, such as reducing medical errors and increasing staff efficiency.

Greater adoption of digital health technologies is only impeded by concerns about patient privacy amid rising incidences of data leaks, as well as a perceived increase in administrative load and the lack of talent to handle new technologies. 


As of 2021, Japan lagged behind EMR adoption in primary care at 42%, below the 93% average among countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 

Since 2020, the government has been promoting the standardisation of EMR through funding for small and medium medical institutions. It is also one of the priority areas of the Headquarters for Medical Digital Transformation, which was established in June last year. 

A focus on investment in hospital IT comes as both private and public hospitals in Japan are seeing positive financial outlooks in the near term. Based on the L.E.K. survey, almost six in 10 public hospital directors polled were expecting a budget surplus over the next three years while 88% of their counterpart in private hospitals said they are anticipating high profit margins. 


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