Five-Minute Interview

Five Minute Interview: "Japan Needs to Be Less Insular"

Posted by Camilla Andersson on November 19, 2012

EMDT's series of interviews offers personal perspectives on the diverse and dynamic medical technology sector. Here, we talk to Kenichi Matsumoto.

Q What is the first thing you do when you get to the office?
I usually start my day by checking e-mail. My secretary prints out important messages for me. After choosing messages that require an answer, I dictate my responses to her, and she sends my replies. If I have guests coming in first thing in the morning, I will meet them. If I need to do an early morning meeting, I will go straight to the conference room. Each day is different.

 Kenichi Matsumoto, Chairman of Sakura Global Holding Co.

Q If I wasn’t talking to you right now, what would you be doing?
Most likely, I would be communicating and reaching out in my role as company CEO or Chairman of the Japan Association of Medical Device Industries. I also represent many other associations, so every minute of my schedule is planned. Right after this interview, I will go to see officials at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, who want my opinion on how it can help Japan’s medical device industry.

Q What proposals are you going to make to the ministry?
Based on my travel to Vietnam, Dubai, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Korea, the Netherlands, Turkey, France and the United States in the past six months, I feel that Japan is falling behind the global trend of government-led medical tourism. In Japan, there are only two Joint Commission–accredited hospitals, which work to improve quality of care, so I’m hoping that the Japanese government will take initiatives to work more closely with companies to run hospitals and accept more patients from abroad. Joint Commission–accredited hospitals in the United States can receive Medicaid or Medicare reimbursement, but not hospitals overseas. If the government seriously wants to attract more patients from abroad, Joint Commission accreditation would be a valuable marketing tool.

I also attended the APEC Health Working Group Meeting-Life Science Innovation Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in June. Government and industry there are pushing hard for the introduction of information technology in the healthcare industry. We, the Japanese, should be more attentive to what other countries are doing.

Q How did you get into the industry?
Although I am the 17th member of my family to head the company, I didn’t intend to succeed my father. I was hoping to become an ambassador or a rakugo (sit-down comedy) storyteller. But my father passed away, and I ended up becoming company president at the age of 36. I became chairman at 53. Since I took over, I’ve aggressively expanded business abroad, and let local people run operations. Establishing a holding company and managing separate companies under the same umbrella worked out perfectly, and I’m happy for that.

Q What is the best thing about your work?
The possibility of offering our modest contribution to improving people’s lives domestically and abroad. 

Q What do you think is the most important medical device invention ever?
Diagnostic ultrasound, specifically the equipment and software processes that allow data processing and communication of the processed data between the main ultrasonic diagnostic imaging machine (UDIM) and the portable satellite, or peripheral, imaging unit.

Q You’ve travelled all over the world and seen first-hand the medical conditions in many countries. What do
you think we can do to help emerging economies?
Instead of pursuing the development of highly innovative, expensive medical devices, we should focus on less costly, basic products that are more accessible to people in developing countries.We should also review how Japan provides official development assistance to developing countries. Unless we monitor how our money is spent, the disparity in health conditions will continue to expand in these countries.

Kenichi Matsumoto is Chairman of Sakura Global Holding Co., a global supplier of ultrasonic cleaning equipment and sterilisers. He also serves as Chairman of the Japan Association of Medical Device Industries and Vice Chairman of the Japan Federation of Medical Devices Associations. Matsumoto can be reached by phone, +81 3 3270 1666.;

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