The future of Czech healthcare? Kinder, friendlier, and ‘patient-oriented’

Founded by a Chilean doctor who came to Czechoslovakia in the 1970s, Unicare Medical continues its legacy of family-oriented healthcare today.

Expats.cz

Written by Expats.cz
Published on 16.07.2021 11:44 (updated on 17.07.2021)

The state-subsidized Czech healthcare system consistently ranks among the most efficient and affordable in the world although anyone who has waited in a no-frills waiting room a long time to be seen by a doctor knows that it has its limitations.

Just as it has for many countries worldwide, the recent Covid-19 crisis has created additional burdens on the system and will likely continue to do so for some time to come. In fact, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index 2021 saw Prague take a considerable drop due to a negative evaluation of its public healthcare system during the pandemic.

The overburdened public healthcare system has also shifted what people in the Czech Republic, foreigners and Czechs alike, are looking for in a patient-doctor relationship. Many are unhappy with the public system and are actively seeking more complex healthcare services.

“We are seeing a continuous increase in interest from Czech people who are looking for the same factors as many of our international patients – a caring doctor with plenty of time to discuss their health issues,” says Jan Hlaváč, CEO of Unicare Medical, a private healthcare provider in Prague’s Bořislavka district offering comprehensive healthcare in 20+ specialization areas.

Unicare Medical was the first private medical center specializing in family-oriented healthcare for the international community in the Czech Republic when it opened in the nineties. It was founded by Dr. Julia Concha-Gonzales, a Chilean national who came to what was then Czechoslovakia in 1973 to work as a doctor.

As a foreigner herself, Dr. Julia Concha-Gonzales experienced first-hand the difficulties foreigners and their families face at Czech public medical facilities which led her to establish Unicare Medical Center in 1994.

Hlaváč predicts that in the future, patients will gravitate toward facilities that offer the more “patient-oriented” approach that Unicare Medical was founded on, healthcare based on language and communication skills, that lends itself to trustworthy long-term doctor-patient relationships.

“Patients want doctors who are truly interested in their health, and can spend enough time with them to explain the medical information in a very understandable way,” says Hlaváč who attributes the public healthcare system’s lack of customer service to overloaded doctors with limited time to interact with patients.

“It is crucial, when living in a foreign country, to understand what your doctor is saying and what procedures he or she suggests,” he adds.

While many clinics offer patients multilingual medical staff Unicare Medical is unique among them – their staff speaks altogether 14 languages: Czech, Slovak, English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Bulgarian, Croatian, Russian, Persian, Hebrew, Korean, Japanese. They can also provide an interpreter to patients who require another language.

Another issue that the Covid crisis has brought to the forefront for patients are the long wait times and inflexible scheduling associated with the public healthcare system. Avoiding crowded waiting rooms has become key for many patients while demand has increased for  weekend and evening availability.

Unicare Medical addresses this with flexible opening hours (Monday to Friday 8am-8pm) and Saturday availability. Patients also have the option for online sessions for some treatments, a doctor visit to their hotel, office or home as well as an expanded mental health offering.

Unicare Medical will also open a new psychosomatic clinic – Covid has seen a rise in psychosomatic disorders, essentially physical disorders worsened by stress – that is led by top specialists in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Membership-based healthcare will continue to be a trend in the Czech Republic, says Hlaváč. “Premium healthcare for employees has become a favorite benefit among both international and local companies,” he says.

“We’re seeing that for many it is among the most sought-after employee benefits as employers will seek to invest in their employee’s continued health and wellbeing.”

He believes that the future of healthcare in the Czech Republic is poised to change in the aftermath of Covid as patients seek out medical care options that offer flexibility and choice as well as a kinder, friendlier care.

This article was written in association with Unicare Medical, a private clinic which provides comprehensive and exceptionally individualized medical care for the international community living in Prague, offering 20+ medical specializations: General Practitioners, Pediatricians, Dentists, Gynaecologists, Physiotherapists. Other specializations include Psychosomatics, Psychotherapy, Family and Systemic therapy, Psychology, Psychiatry, Allergology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Endocrinology, ENT (Ear-Nose-Throat), Gastroenterology, Internal medicine, Neurology, Orthopaedics, Rheumatology, or Urology. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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