Leader talks: Canadian Medical's Dr. Barbara Taušová on the doctor-patient relationship in Czechia

Dr. Taušová reflects on a career in medicine, the changes she's seen and what lies ahead.

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas Published on 26.10.2022 15:30:00 (updated on 26.10.2022) Reading time: 6 minutes

For Dr. Barbara Taušová providing medical care has been a lifetime calling. As a young pediatrician, she was given the chance to work at the Canadian Medical Centre in Prague, eventually rising through the ranks and taking over the business from its Canadian founders. We recently spoke to the doctor about the changes that have come to Czech medicine over the years, the specific needs of the foreign clientele, and what lies ahead for Canadian Medical.

Tell us a bit about your own personal experiences as a medical professional and what let you down this path of making a career of caring for foreigners. 

Providing medical care is my lifelong passion and work. I was given the chance as a young pediatrician to work at the Canadian Medical Centre in Prague, and eventually I was able to take it over from the Canadian Company. These were the nineties, very early days in newly liberated Prague, yet even then I knew what I wanted to build – a system of care, which would be comprehensive and accommodate patients from all over the world. I traveled a lot, visited the best clinics and researched abroad wherever I sensed a spark of innovation. After years of growth and development I realized that by taking on a partner, I could accelerate all the technical and organizational tasks we were facing with a growing clinic and clientele. 

What is your area of expertise and what is your role in the clinic now? 

I am a general pediatrician with a background in neonatology. My position at Canadian Medical is that of Medical Director, with a focus on education and ensuring a smooth collaboration between the many specialties we have. I enjoy adopting new technologies in our daily work and consulting with parents about modern approaches to parenting.

How has general medicine changed over the years in Czechia and how has Canadian Medical changed to reflect this progress?

Medicine has changed worldwide, not just in Czechia. We are no longer only treating illnesses but attempting to prevent them before they manifest. This can also be seen in the shift from a paternal approach to a dialogue and partnership with the patients who are taking more of an active role in their health. Gone are the long queues in waiting rooms, replaced by appointment systems. There is a shift from general medication to personalized medicine, from office visits to telehealth, where practical of course. In Czechia, we have seen a shift from a rather hostile system, to one which offers not only a very high level of medicine but also more empathy and understanding of the patient's needs. It has always been our priority at CM to be at the forefront of these innovations because we place the well-being of our patients above all else. 

Canadian Medical is almost a 'household name' among expats. Why do you think your medical center has gained such a good reputation over the years? For many expats it's the first choice of medical provider. 

From the very beginning (in 1998) my number one priority has always been to curate the best and most comprehensive healthcare for expats and later also for local clients in Czech Republic. We have a long standing tradition of being the market leaders in innovation and understanding the needs of our patients. Every one of our excellent doctors are true experts in their areas of specialization and I think that is a key component to our reputation.

What are some of the specific needs foreigners who come to your clinic may have? What challenges do they face in the Czech system? 

They are looking for a medical hub – a place where they can get all the medical care they need from doctors they can trust. It can be difficult to feel comfortable with such important decisions when there is a language barrier, so we are able to speak with them in their preferred language.

Are Czech nationals becoming more interested in premium healthcare services post-Covid? Are more people moving away from the state system in order to seek more patient-led care? 

We have seen a tremendous growth of interest in our premium care and I believe this is indicative of a growing desire for having the peace of mind that 24/7 premium healthcare can give. People  want to feel that their health is of highest priority, and remains our primary mission. 

Would you describe Canadian Medical's approach as 'patient led'? 

We find the best outcomes when our patients take an active role in pursuing and maintaining their health. To this end, we always prefer to partner with our patients through a healthy dialogue and active listening to their goals and concerns. It is one of our highest priorities.

In recent years, so many of us Czech or expat have faced some incredibly challenging times in terms of both mental and physical health concerns. The pandemic brought a whole host of new health issues and of course, now we are still experiencing aftershocks in terms of mental health, obesity, etc. How have you responded to this with your patients? 

We are expanding our mental health team and also have a program to train our doctors (GPs, pediatricians, internists) in this area. We have also added an experienced nutritionist to our team.

There are some critical shortages of mental health professionals and pediatricians in Czechia today. Are you faced with these shortages among your staff? What is your doctor/patient ratio can you accommodate new patients at this time? 

We do accommodate new patients, but we give priority to those who are seeking out complex care in our settings.  

What are some of the challenges that still exist today in the Czech healthcare system and how did Canadian Medical develop in response to this? 

The number one challenge is a lack of doctors and medical personnel. The absence of money to modernize access for patients is also a concern. At Canadian Medical, we have developed online tools to help address both of these concerns. myCANADIAN is an online application that allows the client to connect with their doctor via chat or video call, book clinical visits, manage prescriptions, access health reports, and more. This saves time for both our doctors and patients while elevating the quality of care in a cost-effective way.

How will inflation hit/change healthcare in Czechia? Have you felt the impact? 

Of course, we are also dealing with the effects of rising energy prices, rents, but also the medical tools and equipment we need for our work. We are committed to assuring that this does not impact the quality of healthcare for our patients.

Do you think that Czech society and the healthcare system will start leaning into prevention as a better road to health (e.g. better nutrition, exercise, etc.) instead of just treating lifestyle diseases? 

I sincerely hope so. Without a doubt, prevention is the most important and essential part of what we do. With preventive examinations, it is very often possible to catch health problems at the very beginning. This significantly contributes to successful treatment. Unfortunately, there are still many people in society who avoid prevention for fear that "something would come up." In these cases, the treatment is much more demanding and not always successful.

What is the most significant trend in healthcare in the past couple of decades in the Czech Republic? 

Alongside major technical innovation, we also observe the slow renovation of hospitals, few new hospitals, and few small, private hospitals. 

Tell us something surprising about your clinic or share a nice anecdote or story about a patient you helped a time when someone really felt the difference between private and public care.  

Recently we received some wonderful feedback from one of our patients. When someone takes time out of their day to email you about a positive experience, you can be sure it was deeply felt. The subject line read “dental hygiene” however what followed was an incredible testament to the warmth and hospitality of one of our receptionists in the dental department. The management sent her a huge bouquet of flowers. At Canadian Medical, we are a team with a singular focus. Every interaction matters. Each patient is important. They are, after all, why we do what we do.

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