Japanese patients among least empowered in the developed world

A new study suggests that Japanese patients with chronic conditions score lower than other developed countries across a range of metrics. Isaac Hanson reports.

Japan’s “paternalistic” health culture may be related to lower patient satisfaction. Credit: Vitalii Stock/Shutterstock

Japanese patients with chronic conditions including cancer, diabetes and MS are significantly less satisfied with care received, and less confident in managing their own symptoms than peers in countries like the US, Germany and France, a new study suggests. 

Globaldata’s Patient Empowerment Thematic Intelligence report surveyed over 500 chronic patients across 11 countries on aspects of their care, catalogued by disease and nationality. 

The general trend of the study was that chronic patients predominantly feel empowered to manage and understand their treatment.  

“The majority of patients with various chronic conditions agreed or strongly agreed that upon diagnosis they were given enough information about their condition, treatment options, medications, and services by their healthcare provider,” GlobalData’s Thematic Intelligence team explains.  

Similarly, around three-quarters of patients studied believe that the data they receive from their health teams is evidence-based, and in all countries but Japan over 70% of patients were happy with the amount and quality of information received about their condition. In Japan, the number only reaches 60%. 

Japan’s outlier status remains visible in more detailed breakdowns of patient empowerment metrics, scoring lowest on polling around informed decision-making, feeling respected by healthcare providers and confidence in managing signs and symptoms of their condition.  

In many cases, the discrepancies are large, as in the case of symptom management in which its 42% agreement is over 20 points below its next closest comparator, Canada.  

This mixture of dissatisfaction and lack of confidence may be explained by culture, the study suggests. “Japanese patients may still have fewer opportunities to participate in medical decision making as a result of the traditional paternalism of Japanese physicians, where HCP decisions are unquestionable and accepted by the patients,” the report explains.  

Whatever the reason, close scrutiny of the matter is necessary to ensure standards of care remain high.