Visiting the hospital
"I know I need to see a doctor, but it's very expensive, isn't it?" "There are many private clinics in Asahikawa. They must be more expensive than public ones, right?"
You may have some misconceptions about Japanese hospitals and clinics, and you may hesitate to visit them even when you have a severe stomachache or a high fever just because you're not sure what to expect. In this month's issue, we can provide you with useful tips about visiting the hospital, "Byoin"!
In Japan almost all the medical treatments are covered by health insurance, and the cost depends on the examination or the treatment, not on the hospital or the doctor. Here, you don't have to find your own "Family Doctor" like in the western countries, you can visit "specialists" directly. If you don't know which specialist you should see, just visit a doctor of Internal Medicine "Naika". Even though these physicians have their own subspecialties, they are near to "General Practitioners" or "Family Doctors" in western countries. At a big general hospital, you only have to explain your major symptoms at the reception desk. The receptionist will show you which department you should visit.
While Westerners are accustomed to discussing the prescribed treatment with their doctors, Japanese doctors generally take the paternalistic "leave it to me" attitude and don't explain the "whys" and "therefores" of their treatment. That doesn't mean they don't like to explain them. It's only a cultural difference. So if you have a question about the examination or treatment, don't hesitate to ask them.
Before Visiting the Hospital
In Japan, medical treatment is covered by two types of health insurance; 1) Workers' Health Insurance Plan 2) National Health Insurance Plan. You just have to make sure you are enrolled in one or the other ahead of time.
Generally, there is no appointment required for the first consultation except for dentistry. Most hospitals and clinics see patients on a first come first served basis. All hospitals and clinics have different business hours, so please check them before you visit. Some hospitals have doctors who are accustomed to treating foreign patients. Please check if they are available on the day you want to go.
At the Hospital
Outpatients should expect to wait up to an hour since most hospitals do not take appointments for the first consultation. If you don't speak Japanese (even if you can speak only basic Japanese), you should bring your Japanese friend along. If your religion restricts your medical treatment, you should inform your doctor and your interpreter about it.
Things to take
1. Health Insurance Certificate "Hoken Sho"
2. Alien Registration Certificate "Gaikokujin Toroku Shomei Sho" If you have other contact details, just bring a handwritten paper with your other information. That will alleviate difficulties at the reception desk.
3. Cash You are supposed to pay by cash at the reception desk when you finish each treatment. Credit cards are generally not accepted.
4. Write it down Most Japanese doctors are good at reading and writing English, but many are not so good at listening and speaking. If you write down your health concerns, major symptoms, and your medical history, it will be very helpful for doctors to diagnose the illness.
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