Foreigners who fear Czech doctor visits have a new option in Prague

The newly opened MY CLINIC wants to ease some of the culture shocks associated with the Czech healthcare system.

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas
Published on 19.04.2021 16:39 (updated on 19.04.2021)

One of the first major shocks for foreigners living in the Czech Republic is the country’s healthcare system. Though affordable, efficient, and effective there are some boxes it just doesn’t tick when it comes to patient care.

But while the uninitiated may assume their doctor’s brusque bedside manner has to do with the straight-shooting Czech mentality, there’s actually another reason your first encounter with the country’s healthcare system may feel a little rushed.

Martin Šimonek is the CEO of MY CLINIC, a newly opened Prague medical center on a mission to change the narrative when it comes to patient care in the Czech Republic. He said that what many foreigners perceive as a cold bedside manner is something different entirely.

“It's a structural thing. When you have a private doctor’s office that takes all of its patients from public healthcare, the doctors get a fee for the service, and the more services or individual treatments they do the more they get paid. As a result, you don't have time to engage in a deeper conversation.”

Šimonek, who spent several years in London studying social science as it relates to healthcare financing says that it's this lack of engagement and conversation that can lead to patients feeling a bit victimized upon leaving a Czech doctor’s office.

Martin Šimonek is the CEO of MY CLINIC
Martin Šimonek is the CEO of MY CLINIC

“The major difference between doctors in the US and UK and here in the Czech Republic is the way the doctors approach the patient. In those countries, they explain options and let patients decide what they want to do. Here the doctor knows best and tells you what to do often without explaining. In many cases, it’s like ‘here you are, here is the referral or prescription, move along to the next doctor.’ There’s no money to be made by explaining it to you.”

MY CLINIC is located in Dejvice, Prague 6
MY CLINIC is located in Dejvice, Prague 6 in the modern TELEHOUSE building.

Open for just two months in the new TELEHOUSE building in Prague’s Dejvice district, MY CLINIC takes a more comprehensive approach to the patient while giving doctors the space to do their job.

“Our philosophy is based on devoting more time to the individual patient. We want to give doctors more time to concentrate, to use their knowledge and experience to give patients the level of comfort and empathy they're used to getting from top healthcare facilities from abroad.”

MY CLINIC looks for doctors with the experience and language abilities to deliver such a service. They recruit medical professionals with certificates of excellence from embassies but also reach out to doctors who may be disheartened by the Czech system and want to work in a facility that offers a higher level of service and care.

Examination rooms at the newly opened MY CLINIC medical center.
Examination rooms at the newly opened MY CLINIC medical center.

“I think people come to the Czech Republic and they experience other services like banking, telecommunications, or entertainment on the European level. But then you come to a state hospital and it looks like it's falling apart. There’s a legacy of underinvestment. We want to provide the level of service and modern facilities people are used to from other countries,” said Šimonek.

Šimonek hopes the clinic will also lessen some of the confusion foreigners can feel when being treated in the Czech Republic.

Chief of ENT, MUDr. Marek Plánička
Chief of ENT, MUDr. Marek Plánička treats a patient at MY CLINIC.

“It’s not easy for the typical patient to know what he or she is entitled to. The system is not really clear and generally, foreigners are not able to find out because there is really no one single point of contact. There is also a language barrier and most doctors are at an advanced age and don't speak English.”

As a subscription-based service (the clinic accepts self-payers, foreign health insurance, and some Czech health insurance companies) MY CLINIC does all the management for its patients to allow for greater ease in setting appointments, paying for care, and dealing with paperwork. It also wants to lessen the ultimate fear associated with a visit to the Czech doctor’s office: the waiting room.

“This is such a common issue for people because they just feel completely on display,” said Šimonek adding that because MY CLINIC schedules appointments there are no long waits or crowds and contact with other clients is limited in its comfortable waiting area.

MY CLINIC is located in Telehouse at Dejvice, Gen. Píky 430/26, Prague  6
MY CLINIC is located in in the Telehouse at Dejvice, Prague 6.

The medical center's common areas were also designed with social distancing in mind. The coronavirus pandemic hit halfway through the construction of the new clinic leading to the implementation of building changes to ensure spacing and privacy between patients in the waiting room and technologies such as thermal cameras that can immediately detect symptoms at the entryway.

Šimonek said that Covid will have a far-reaching impact on how people, Czechs and foreigners alike, prefer to receive medical care in the future -- he also believes they’ll be willing to spend money to get it.

“Covid has made everyone aware of the value of their health. Private facilities that can guarantee service, modern equipment, and the highest standards of professionalism will become very popular,” he predicts. 

MY CLINIC
MY CLINIC commons areas were built with privacy in mind.

As for the Covid-era rise of telemedicine and diagnostics at a distance, Šimonek remains a firm believer in the healing power of touch.

“Personal contact with a human touch is something we advocate. People need to be physically in contact, the doctors need to be able to physically examine you and reassure you.”

During the first stage of the clinic's operation, MY CLINIC is offering medical care in fifteen areas of specialization, however, it will soon open a pediatrics unit providing physiotherapy and dermatology as well as offering services like ENT for children in a single facility.

MY CLINIC
Bright and modern examination room at MY CLINIC.

A future partnership with Podolí maternity hospital will see MY CLINIC doctors offering prenatal care and assistance with birth.

Šimonek believes developing relationships with patients and families is a basic attribute of world-class healthcare. “We do not just treat patients,” he said. “We help people.”

This article was written in association with MY CLINIC. A new private clinic of outpatient medical care it currently offers care in the fields of Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Diabetology, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT), Dermatology, Sonography, Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy, Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Orthopaedics, Rheumatology, Ophthalmology, Psychiatry, Psychiatry for Children and Adolescents, Psychology, Paediatrics. Read more information at www.myclinic.cz. Read more about our partner content policies here.