Some approaches to medicine are universal.
Acute appendicitis, for example, typically will send surgeons reaching for a scalpel.
But health care systems – and how they're structured – aren't limited by strict protocols. Hospital executives have found more than one right way to do it.
Japanese and American medical professionals are meeting in Fort Wayne this week to compare approaches to delivering medical care.
Parkview Health officials are hosting a delegation from Takaoka City Hospital, which is Fort Wayne's sister city in Japan. Discussions are expected to address health insurance, medical schools, emergency departments, heart care and stroke treatments.
Takaoka City Hospital is about the same size as Parkview Regional Medical Center.
"The purpose of this exchange is to share best practices with each other," Parkview spokesman Eric Clabaugh said in an email. "We're looking for opportunities where we can potentially learn from these physicians how we can improve quality, improve patient safety and more."
One difference is that the Japanese hospital is owned by the Takaoka city government while Parkview is a nonprofit. Another is in the health care providers' structure.
Dr. Ray Dusman, Parkview Health's chief physician executive, said Japanese patients must travel to regional hospitals even for basic procedures.
One of the visitors' goals is to learn more about the regional emergency system that Parkview uses, he said.
Parkview delivers nonemergency care to patients throughout the region in small community hospitals in Huntington, Noble and Whitley counties. Patients with serious conditions are transferred to Parkview Regional Medical Center by helicopter or ambulance.
Dr. Kazuki Toyama, Takaoka City Hospital's deputy director, spoke through a translator about his experience.
Although the countries' insurance systems differ, both societies face some of the same problems, including cost, quality and access, he said.
Toyama said he's proud of the efforts of individual employees at his hospital. But overall, he said, Japanese medical professionals work too many hours. He doesn't recommend that type of slavish devotion to the job.
Parkview officials are listening carefully to Toyama's descriptions of nursing, Dr. Dusman said.
In Japan, nurses are more active in overseeing patients' care – even after patients leave the hospital. A team of health care providers visits the home and helps the patient successfully make the transition from the structured hospital setting.
Hospital stays in Japan average 18 days for patients with acute – or severe and sudden – conditions, while U.S. patients with similar ailments average five days in the hospital. Japanese officials are looking at ways to shorten average stays, he said.
Three people are visiting from Takaoka City Hospital: Toyama, the hospital's chief nurse and a second-year, primary care medical resident.
Masaki Takahashi, Takaoka's mayor, visited Fort Wayne last year for the 35th anniversary of the sister cities agreement. At that time, he suggested the cities' medical professionals should exchange ideas and information.
"We hope that both sides will be able to gain an understanding of the similarities and differences between the American and Japanese medical systems and learn about the high level of health care and advanced techniques used in Parkview in areas such as surgical operations and emergency medical care," Takahashi wrote in a follow-up letter to Thomas Herr, president of Fort Wayne Sister Cities International Inc.
The nonprofit organization promotes international understanding by organizing student, civic, artistic and business exchanges.
A story about a physician exchange program that ran earlier online and on Page 1A Friday failed to include Taizhou City, China, as one of Fort Wayne's sister cities.