The Slovenia Times

The Challenge of Prevention



Barsos was the first private clinic in Slovenia. What was the thinking behind its foundation?

When we first set up the clinic in 1993, the idea was to start with the basics and have only paediatricians and general doctors. Then later on, we would hire other specialists that might be needed by these two branches - orthopaedics, cardiology and so on. They had the same idea in the old socialist system. In a way we followed this idea, but in a friendlier, more accessible way, with perhaps more emphasis on an individual approach.

A lot of your patients are foreigners. How did that come about?

In 1990, Slovenia started opening up suddenly, many foreigners came here. Both our doctors and our nurses know foreign languages, and of course we were located in the capital, and so that's how it started. Foreigners were used to more flexible hours, to counselling over the telephone and we offered all of this. Perhaps the most important thing is this individual approach - large national institutions need longer to treat you, while we work more quickly.

How do foreign patients compare to Slovenian ones?

Foreigners are, in general, very enlightened when it comes to health. When they have a problem, they first try to solve it themselves, whereas Slovenians run to the doctor at the first sneeze. In terms of saving money, the foreign approach is better. I think in the future you will have to do more by yourself before coming to the doctor.

Would you say that patients nowadays are more knowledgeable about their possible illnesses?

Yes. Doctors want patients to know much more about their illnesses - to know the cause and how the illness starts. In addition, medicine is slowly changing from a paternalistic, authoritative practice where Latin is spoken and the patients do not understand, to a practice where the patient's understanding is crucial and where he or she helps you treat the condition. This is a critical new step in the approach to treating a patient. The patient is now my assistant.

Does the increased knowledge of patients help you as a doctor or does it make matters more difficult?

This helps doctors because knowledgeable patients compel doctors to educate themselves even more, to follow new scientific achievements. A knowledgeable patient is a challenge to you. It would be stupid for a doctor to say "I know everything", because there are many specialist branches and they are all developing very quickly.

What do you think will be the focus of healthcare in the coming years? And is Slovenia prepared for this future?

The future all over the world lies in preventive care, including public education. Nowadays, Slovenia has preventive procedures for colorectal cancer, mammograms, prevention of breast cancer, regular gynaecological examinations, etc. I have to say that, when compared to the rest of the world, Slovenia is very strong in prevention in paediatrics. We are very conscientious in this respect.

We did a great thing with the law against smoking in public places. We take great care of diabetes patients - all of their expenses are covered. Oncological patients also have all of their expenses covered. It is, however, unfortunate that the economic crisis is responsible for people not going to preventive checkups as much as they used to. And I think the economic situation is not favourable for a healthy way of life. People smoke more, they eat more unhealthy food. The amount of stress in people's lives is enormous, and stress always has a negative effect on health. Nowadays, patients often go to doctors like they used to go to priests.


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