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Thread: Treatment of customers in Japan : is it all a matter of money ?

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Treatment of customers in Japan : is it all a matter of money ?

    As I was watching 救命病棟24, a Japanese-style "E.R.", I stopped in the middle to write this article. This time, like many other times before on TV or in real life in Japan, one thing that distrubed me was that the Japanese doctors care more about money than about the patient's health.

    In this episode, the main plot was that the hospital E.R. boss refused to accept a patient which he knew had a negative balance on his bank account. I think this kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable from a doctor, especially in a hospital ER section.

    This is to put in relation with my earlier observations on the unscrupulous profit-minded approach of Japanese hospitals and doctors (see this article).

    I went a few times to the doctors in Japan, but everytime, I was surprised at how fast they inspected their patient, sometimes not even asking the patient's name (because the secretary had already taken it ?), not aksing any questions about personal medical history. In contrast, the doctors I went to in Europe (whatever the country) always took time to try to know their patients, remember their name (and medical history), etc. Whatever doctor I go to (G.P., any of the specialists), they do remember my name and my medical history, even if I only see them once every 5 or 10 years, and they usually inquire about my relatives that also go to this doctor. In Japan, at the doctor's I went to, patients are asked to fill their personal info on a piece of paper in the waiting room (if there is such a thing). From what I asked my Japanese aquaintances, it is not normal for a doctor to remember even their patients' name, except if that patient comes very often.

    This is not only true of doctors, but almost everybody. I have just been back to my hometown for the first time in 1,5 years and I was surprised that even the bank staff or my optician remember my name (and even my previous address !) eventhough I hadn't seen them for several years and they have thousands of customers. In Japan, they don't even ask for my name (that is not because I am not Japanese, as they don't never ask my wife's name either).

    Although Japan is famous for good customer service, I feel it is still all very superficial - like the incessant "irasshaimase" in shops, that people will repeat automatically even if you walk in and out the same shop 3x in 5 minutes (they just don't care enough to remember that you were there 2 minutes ago).

    The fact is that many people working with a large number of everyday customers (bankers, doctors, shopkeepers, etc.) don't seem to care much about their everyday clients. After 2 weeks back to Europe, I was surprised at how people really seemed genuinely interested in each others in Europe, asking questions about their family's health or just how was life, and usually tried to get to know each of them personally. After 3,5 years in Japan, I had nearly forgotten that such a thing was normal "back home". Here, and I am not only talking about how Japanese treat me (a foreigner), but from my observation of everyday life around me, it seems that most shops, banks and even doctor's offices are extremely impersonal. They do their business, get paid, and that's all. Asking private questions is either considered as a waste of time (that is money) or unnecessary (if not even improper).

    I don't want to say that Japanese look like automated money-making robots devoid of personal feelings, as they are generally very courteous. What shocked me when I came back from Europe yesterday was how all was so very impersonal and superficial in Tokyo, and I was doubly shocked that patients could be refused urgent medical care if they didn't have enough money.

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  2. #2
    Junior Member DoctorP's Avatar
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    I have to echo your sentiments about the lack of remembering a customers name. There are several stores that I frequent and you would think that (being a gaijin) they would at least remember my name! Come to think of it, the video store is the only one I can think of that act even remotely personal with my family. They remember our names, what we like to watch, the types of music we prefer (the wife and I are different) yet the hardware store, combini, that I visit regularly act like it is the first time they have seen me each time I walk in. I will say that resturants are more likely to relish personal relationships and remember customers...that is just good business. Hospitals are going to get customers no matter what! Many of the resturants, Izakayas that I frequent remember us and actually make elaborate attempts to maintain our business. I can actually walk into a full resturant and the manager will give me a table that is currently reserved because he knows how long it takes my family to eat, knows what we like to eat etc.... He realizes that he is building trust and a good customer base and that we will suggest him to our friends!


    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    ...and I was doubly shocked that patients could be refused urgent medical care if they didn't have enough money.
    as for this...I haven't experienced this much. I do know that if a patient does not have the funds to pay, they can sign a form (like an affadavit) which states when they plan to return and pay the bill.

    I have to say (a little off topic) that contrary to many posts here I have experienced very good health care while in Japan. True, they tend to over-medicate, but the care and treatment my family and I have received has been very good. I must say that bed side manner can be improved upon, but the actual care has been good! Just last night my son went to the ER for a concussion. He received an MRI, CT scan, ultrasound, 2 IV's (not sure why) and stayed overnight for observation...it only cost us Y12,000! The same care in the US would have cost us thousands of dollars!

  3. #3
    Cute and Furry Ewok85's Avatar
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    I go into my local little cafe and order hot potatoe wedges or a roll with something and they are pretty chatty, remember my name and what I'm up to (continue on from the last converstations etc), even the people in the Subway know me now (middle of the city, they must serve about 10 people a minute in there, very very busy), but they still say "how you been leon?" and all that.

    Now whilst in Japan the closest I got was chatting to a 7-11 girl with was Chinese, working there part-time and studying the rest of the time. Was the only time I talked to someone in a store....

    And just on doctors, over here they are very friendly and very chatty. I spent about 20mins last time i saw a GP talking about hayfever, a study he had done on hayfever and why he thought it was so prevalent in my area of Adelaide (dust apparently).

  4. #4
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CC1
    Just last night my son went to the ER for a concussion. He received an MRI, CT scan, ultrasound, 2 IV's (not sure why) and stayed overnight for observation...it only cost us Y12,000! The same care in the US would have cost us thousands of dollars!
    I was made to pay 10,000 yen for a simple routine blood test. I know that the US is famous for being extremely expensive when it comes to medical care, but in Europe it's usually free or cheaper than in Japan (and therefore nobody ask if we are able to pay when going to the ER).

  5. #5
    Hullu RockLee's Avatar
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    yeah here in Belgium healthcare is muuuuuuch more cheaper than in Japan, but about everything relating public services are more expensive in Japan (and America).Just like education costs a fortune in Japan and A.
    I can't understand why after all this time they invest more in making education, healthcare more public, because IMO everyone deserves a chance to study and get good treatment.

    In another thread there was said braces in japan cost a few thousand dollars...I think it's sick they dare to charge so much !!
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  6. #6
    Lovely Angel BrennaCeDria's Avatar
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    I have to admit that in Savannah, we have really ****** customer service for being a "hostess city of the south" or whatever. I'm just as if not more guilty of it than the rest, too. You can either go someplace really nice (store, resturaunt, etc) and be given ****** service because you are lower than their normal class of customers, or you can go someplace normal and be treated badly because of how low class (or teenaged, in some places) the staff is.

    Back to braces and schooling... I just paid $800 cash this semester for two classes, not including my books, and my parents paid $120 a month for my braces for three years plus payments on the wisdom teeth removal surgery I had so that I could get braces to start with. Add THAT up.

    New sig coming soon!

  7. #7
    遠いから行きません GaijinPunch's Avatar
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    I remember going to get a prescription filled from a doctor, and him not remembering me. He wasn't English speaking, and this was in Akasaka near my work. I didn't want to pull that "how many white patients do you have?" card, but was still rather amused/confused.

    Anyways, in the show -- the doctor was probably doing the poor guy a favor. You can search other threads on my rants against all the quacks in Japan that go under the title "doctor". My wife is in utter awe of the medical system in the states, and we've not even been here 6 months.

  8. #8
    Regular Member bartbeanie's Avatar
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    i work as a cashier and it hard. sometimes we tried not to be rude but we don't mean it. i feel like a robot because i say the samethings over and over again. i am personal with some people i know but it impossible to know everyone. there always is room for improvement.

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    Cute and Furry Ewok85's Avatar
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    Just for comparison I went to the doctors today. I've been feeling tired but unable to sleep at night, feverish, always sweating (even indoors in airconditioning), very VERY sore throat, headaches, sore limbs and something in my neck has swelled up on the left and is painful.

    2 minute wait in a comfy chair infront of a television, told him what was up, he had a poke of the neck, look down the throat, asked a few questions about allergies or other things (runny nose? cough?) and then prescribed pennicillin, told me what to take today and the next 10 days, which painkiller to use and some medical certificates for work "next few days will be crap and if your now better by friday come back and we'll do a blood test, I'll be here"

    Awesome service, no charge (Medicare, aussie private health insurance covers it), drugs $20. Easy, friendly and fast.

  10. #10
    Lovely Angel BrennaCeDria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ewok85
    Just for comparison I went to the doctors today. I've been feeling tired but unable to sleep at night, feverish, always sweating (even indoors in airconditioning), very VERY sore throat, headaches, sore limbs and something in my neck has swelled up on the left and is painful.
    Unless you've got puss on your throat, sounds like you've got mono, and a blood test is actually how they find out for sure, so the doctor thinks so too, and is hoping it's just a bad flu.

    Be prepared to feel like crap for a few more weeks. :/

  11. #11
    Manga Psychic PaulTB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GaijinPunch
    I remember going to get a prescription filled from a doctor, and him not remembering me. He wasn't English speaking, and this was in Akasaka near my work. I didn't want to pull that "how many white patients do you have?" card, but was still rather amused/confused.
    "The how many (white/gaijin) patients do you have?" bit is all very well in theory but isn't it likely that they just find foreign names are just harder to remember?

    I know that when I'm playing computer games I forget the (Japanese) names of the characters very often.

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