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Report| McKinsey Global Institute

The challenge of reforming Japan's health system

November 2008 | byHeang Chhor, Diana Farrell, Nicolaus Henke, Sonosuke Kadonaga

Multiple problems are threatening the sustainability of Japan’s health system.

For example, some patients do not receive the most appropriate treatment because the system lacks control over the supply of and demand for health services. The quality of care delivered varies throughout the country, and costs are not always effectively controlled. Although Japan has realized that its health system has problems, the steps it has taken to correct them have not always achieved the desired impact.

Three interrelated factors are impeding the country’s ability to reform its health system: resources are overutilized, many of the proposed solutions fail to address root causes, and political considerations make reform difficult.

If Japan wants to develop a truly effective reform program, it must begin by reaching consensus on the root causes of the system’s most pressing problems and developing a plan for overcoming the obstacles that have prevented reform until now. It must then establish a vision for its future health system, identify potential reforms that will change the current system in the right way, and develop a long-term implementation plan.

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This report draws on applied research carried out by McKinsey consultants. To learn more about our expertise please visit Mckinsey Global Institute, Tokyo. Mckinsey Global Institute,