In Japan, most hospitals operate almost exclusively in Japanese, which can make the whole process even more difficult for those who are not fluent in the language. While going to the hospital is a necessary part of life, Japan’s multilingual medical questionnaires can help ease some of the communications issues that accompany visiting the hospital. Keep reading to find out more about these questionnaires and other English-language resources available for your next hospital visit.
If you would like to learn about health care in Japan, this article will help you.
One way to improve your experience at a Japanese hospital if you are struggling with language barriers is to use a Multilingual Medical Questionnaire (MMQ). The MMQ is a project started by the non-profit organization International Community Hearty Konandai, after meeting many people who struggled with medical examinations due to language barriers. The MMQ is intended to aid communication with the doctor and hospital when discussing symptoms and medical issues.
The MMQ is available in 18 languages.
The MMQ is also divided up by medical department. Some questions will be the same on all questionnaires, regardless of department, while others are more specialized. If you are unsure which department you need to visit, the website link above provides a guide with departments listed next to major symptoms as well as a brief description of various department specialties.
The questionnaires can be accessed online in order to find the correct language and department. When you have found the correct questionnaire, it can be downloaded, printed, and filled out. When you visit the doctor, you can show this questionnaire and it should include much of the necessary information for the doctor to provide the best help.
As well as the MMQ, there are a number of services available that can help with medical queries and hospital visits in Japan. Here are some of the top materials and services available to foreigners living in Japan for navigating the hospital system.
Website: 外国人向け多言語説明資料 一覧 - 医療
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) in Japan provides multilingual materials for use by foreigners needing help when visiting a hospital or clinic. The ministry has provided many of the standard forms in bilingual formats that need to be filled out in Japanese hospitals. These include patient admission forms, medical expenses forms, and hospitalization procedure information. Some hospitals will allow use of these forms in place of their monolingual forms, or you can use it as a guide when filling out the hospital forms.
These forms are available by accessing the MHLW website link above and are provided in the following languages.
Note: While the documents are available in the above languages, you will need to use your browser's translation tool to identify which link to click as the website page is provided in Japanese.
Himawari is a service offered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to provide medical assistance to foreigners living in Tokyo. Using their website, it is possible to search for a hospital, clinic, or pharmacy near you, narrowing down the search by location, language, and department. While the Himawari site itself only supports Chinese, Korean, and English languages, you can use it to search for medical institutions in 18 different languages.
There is also a telephone line service provided by the Tokyo Metropolitan Health and Medical Information Center that can provide information on hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies with foreign language support. The helpline is available in English, English, Korean, Spanish, and Thai.
Available hours: 9:00–20:00 (Mon–Sun)
Note: The default language for the Himawari website is Japanese. To change the language to English, select the text “English・中文(簡体)・한국어” at the very top of the page and then follow the prompts to change the website to your preferred language (English, Chinese, or Korean).
Website: AMDA English Page
The AMDA International Medical Information Center is a useful resource that provides a lot of general information about the Japanese medical system, yearly health checkups, and immunization schedules for foreign residents.
They provide help in filling out medical examination forms as well as locating medical facilities where foreign-language staff is available. The AMDA also has a telephone consultation service as well as a telephone interpretation service for when you are at the hospital or clinic.
Their website provides the schedule of when these services are available in various languages, including English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese.
Website: About Dr. Passport
Dr. Passport is an extremely useful smartphone app that can be used to store your medical history, describe symptoms, and ease communication with doctors, pharmacies, and hospital staff.
The app provides support for 12 different languages.
You can store past medical information in your user profile, including any conditions you have or medications you are taking. You can also enter current symptoms and concerns to show the doctor.
The app provides a list of “useful phrases,” which you can use to help communicate more effectively with the hospital staff. There is a second tab where medical staff can choose their response in order to help you understand as well. This is a great way to keep your medical history with you as well as effectively communicate in a range of medical situations while in Japan.
Explore More English-Friendly Medical Guides for Japan
Visiting a hospital in Japan can be very difficult for anyone, especially if you are not confident in your Japanese. With everything from medical terminology to bureaucratic terms necessary for payment and insurance, the whole process can be very trying and anxiety-inducing. While visiting the doctor is a necessary part of life, we hope the resources above help make it less stressful.
For much more information on navigating medical care in Japan as an English speaker, be sure to check out our comprehensive medical guides, covering everything from understanding health insurance to mental health support, allergy considerations, and much more.
Also, if you are unsure about the general healthcare system in Japan, we highly suggest that you familiarize yourself with this general overview.
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