New Context

New Context

Promoting Digital Transformation with a Payment Service for Medical Care That Cuts Patient Wait Time to Zero

It may be possible to create a world where patients do not have to wait to pay after medical exams. Digital Garage (DG), which has one of Japan’s largest payment platforms, plans to release a Payment Service Specializing in the Medical Field by the end of 2024. If this service comes into widespread use, patients will not experience the stress of long waiting times, and medical institutions will not have to hurriedly calculate how much the patient needs to pay, which is a complex process. The development team said that digital payments are merely the beginning of the digital transformation in the medical care industry, which has so far proceeded at a slow pace. We spoke about the status of the digital transformation in this industry and its future potential with Yukiko Ohara and Yu Takayama of DG’s Digital Health Business Dept.


head; Digital Health Business Dept.; Digital Garage, Inc.

Yukiko Ohara

Became director of a medical care startup after working in a wide range of new businesses at a human resource service company and telecommunications company. Joined DG in 2019. Was team senior manager at DG Lab BioHealth before taking up her current position in 2022.

Digital Health Business Dept; Digital Garage, Inc.

Yu Takayama

After working at a medical care consulting company where involvement included new business planning and implementation, as well as support for opening new clinics and caregiving facilities, with a focus on management support. Joined DG in 2019, and worked in sales, planning, and system operation for the brain MRI screening business. Currently involved in the medical care payment business.

Three factors delaying digital transformation in the medical care industry

Digitization has made many experiences smoother and more convenient, reducing stress and improving comfort in our daily lives. However, medical care is an example of a sector where certain factors make digitization more difficult. For several decades, patients have had to go to a hospital and receive a numbered ticket to get a medical exam. Afterward, they must wait for their turn to pay, which can often take several hours, even if their appointment lasted just a few minutes.

Why is this process still so inefficient for patients? We asked Takayama of the Digital Health Business Dept., who works to develop new services that can cut wait times to zero.

“One factor is the profit structure at medical care institutions. We can regard the medical exam process as a labor-intensive business model because profit is closely connected to how many patients are seen by physicians. Efforts to optimize physician tasks have direct effects on sales, but these impacts are less visible for work done by nurses or office staff members. That’s why institutions aren’t prioritizing capital investments that don’t lead directly to increased sales.”

There are two other major factors that have impeded digitization at medical care facilities. The first reason is that medical institutions are hesitant to introduce new systems because many of their patients are elderly people, who might not want to use them.

The second factor is that medical institutions must devote more attention to information handling than regular companies. Patient data is classified as “Special Care-Required Personal Information” under many laws and regulations, requiring more stringent control than general personal information. For instance, patients must agree to the collection of their personal information, which cannot be provided to a third party without their consent. This means that many hospitals cannot integrate their systems with external tools, and many institutions restrict their connections to the Internet.

Changes inspired by COVID-19 and physician work-style reform

Despite these complex circumstances, more medical institutions are introducing new systems for taking advance reservations and automatic payments. This has also been spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, when facilities had to avoid crowding and meet patient needs for contactless services, as well as increasing requests for remote services and automation.

National policy has also significantly impacted digitization in the medical field by reforming physicians’ working styles since April 2024, including efforts to manage working hours and reduce overtime work. This has resulted in a greater need for digital services to optimize work tasks, and this momentum has been further propelled by the government’s recommendation to link My Number and health insurance cards.

A specialized payment service for the medical field that simplifies and streamlines the administration

DG is developing its payment service specialized in the medical field while many efforts to digitize medical facilities are underway. We asked Takayama to share some specific information about this service.

“It’s based on the concept of allowing patients to return home immediately. All they have to do is input their information in the online app before the exam, and the payment is made by the credit card. When they arrive at the medical facility, they check in by scanning a QR Code at the front desk with the app. After the exam, they can leave without waiting in line to pay.”

“It takes a lot of time for medical institutions to calculate how much each patient must pay. With this service, they can complete this process when they have time to do so, rather than hastily trying to figure out payment amounts while patients are waiting. Not having to take offline payments fees up time for other tasks. This service requires no capital investment; the institution just inputs the balance for each patient into the online application to complete the accounting process.”

A proof of concept (POC) has been conducted at several medical institutions, and DG plans to release this service by the end of 2024. We spoke with Ohara about the status of the project in March 2024.

“Development is going well as we head toward the release, although there are still some small issues. The medical institutions participating in the POC have different sizes and departments, so we are making adjustments while seeing how the service is being used and whether it functions properly in a wide range of medical settings. We plan to keep improving user-friendliness while listening to physicians and office staff.”

Ohara described the background of this POC, which was jointly planned and developed by Resona Group and DG. 

“DG was making individual efforts to enter the medical payment service field. It has a capital and business alliance with Resona Holdings, which was also interested in and making preparations to do business in that sector. We started this joint project so we could take the next step together.”

“We hoped this collaboration would make it possible to leverage each company’s strengths and create better services. Resona Bank has a good track record with retail banking compared to other Japanese banks, and has ample knowledge and expertise in designing services for individuals and small- and medium-sized enterprises. DG offers a wide array of payment methods, as well as technologies for building advanced security environments and management structures. We’ve worked with many companies in our existing businesses and can collaborate as necessary with partners to build services.”

Starting with payment services, what does the future hold for digital transformation in the medical care industry?

According to Ohara, this payment service is merely the starting line for the digital transformation of the medical care industry. “We’ve been approached by many medical and financial institutions who read our press release. I sense there is a lot of interest in this service. We will keep refining it during the POC and after its official release based on requests from companies that implement it.”

“We are striving to optimize all non-core activities at medical institutions, which refers to tasks other than medical practice. Payment is one part of this, but I want to increase efficiency in other processes as well, such as services that assist with medical facility management. Another idea is services that help patients select suitable medical care. For all these, we plan to explore sectors where we can offer greater value based on information acquired from our payment services.”

How will society be transformed through DG’s vision of digital transformation in the medical field? According to Takayama, we can expect a higher level of quality for medical care.

“As digital transformation progresses in the medical care industry, I think it will become normal for patients to bring their own health data with them. It will be easy to link their data with medical institutions, including payment information, personal health information, and exam history. Under the guidance of a physician, patients could input information that was previously kept separate, such as causes of illness, post-surgery progress, and recovery. I think it will be possible for medical institutions to provide more precise, optimal care to individual patients.”

To maintain the high-quality medical care structure in Japan, it will be important for individuals to pay attention to and work to maintain their health, along with efforts by institutions. Ohara said that DG plans to expand its services from the medical care field into the health care sector.

“Our ultimate goal is to abolish the asymmetry in medical care information, and the boundaries between medical care and health care. Japan has an excellent national health insurance system, but I feel there is too much distance between medical care and other types of products and services not covered by insurance. A patient might pay for exams that are not covered under insurance as a type of preventative care, utilize health care services when they are not sick, or use these services with a doctor’s permission while also receiving medical care through the insurance system. That’s why I want to create comprehensive, individualized services. I hope to develop new, data-based medical and health care services for individuals—which will be needed in the coming era—by leveraging the marketing know-how that is one of DG’s strengths.”

Payment Service Specializing in the Medical Field

This platform enables online management of everything, from reception to accounting operations, on the day of a medical appointment. By separating accounting from the conventional exam process and handling payments after the patient returns home, this system improves patient satisfaction by reducing their waiting time and streamlines office tasks at medical institutions.