General Hospitals and Clinics in Japan

Nov 13, 2020


Medical institutions in Japan are divided widely into clinics and hospitals.

General Hospitals and Clinics in Japan

Clinics may be managed by a single doctor and provide only one specialization or may have multiple doctors with different specializations.

Hospitals are larger institutions that generally have a wide variety of medical departments, interact with emergencies, and have in-patient services. Formally, a medical facility with less than 20 beds is a clinic.

The Main Differences Between Hospitals and Clinics in Japan

The simplest way to differentiate between these two different types of medical facilities is the size and severity of your illness.

Due to the limited size of the facility (usually 20 beds or less) patients with mild or chronic disease and injuries will receive medical care at clinics. Most clinics specialize in the treatment of specific symptoms, such as internal medicine (naika, 内科) or OB-GYN (san-fujinka). Thus, patients must then determine which clinic to visit.

On the other hand, there are three major types of hospitals in Japan: national, general, and university hospitals. These institutions also provide specialized examinations and run operations. Some patients are moved from a clinic to a hospital with a referral letter, depending on the severity of their symptoms.

Where Should You Go? Hospital or Clinic?

If you understand what’s wrong, you can pick a specialty clinic that’s suited to your needs. To find a clinic near you, directly search for クリニック or “clinic” in English and your location on the internet. Most clinics will have an internal medicine department

Although most clinics do not need appointments, they are available at some and necessary at others, so it is best to confirm in advance. For instance, many clinics have a special number for appointments (hospital also), and some even have an online appointment form. In general, dentists are appointment-only. When you visit a meeting-only facility for the first time, you can call to describe the situation and clarify the symptoms and availability.

If the condition is more serious or an emergency, you should head directly to a larger hospital. However, if you have a cold or other mild symptoms, you should refrain from going to a larger hospital — you won’t necessarily be turned down, but you will be asked to pay an additional charge for their care in the case of not being serious enough. 

If you are unable to be treated by a clinic, you will be referred to another hospital. The types of referral letters vary depending on the clinic/hospital involved, but a fee of 750-2,000 yen will be paid for the referral. This fee also applies if you seek a second opinion from another clinic. If you visit a large hospital for a non-emergency condition without a letter of referral, you will be charged a significant first-time appointment fee. According to JapanHealthcare Info, from April 2016, this fee will be set at 5000 yen, with subsequent visits costing 2500 yen. 

Hospitals and Clinics in Japan

If the condition is more serious or an emergency, you should head directly to a larger hospital. However, if you have a cold or other mild symptoms, you should refrain from going to a larger hospital!

The Guidable team does hope that you found this article a helpful piece of information! After all, all of our activities are aiming for a better life for foreigners in Japan! So, stay tuned and follow us!

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