echo interview with Georgos Pallas, owner and managing director of Pallas Clinics
elipsLife echo: Mr Pallas, the cost question is a major factor in health policy. Although public hospitals are continually tightening their belts, they’re always plagued by deficits. How do you manage to run a private hospital profitably in this environment?
Georgos Pallas: The constantly shrinking tariffs mean that hospitals are deriving less and less income for the same services. And costs are rising at the same time. As a clinic, the only course of action is to improve process efficiency. Hospitals that can bundle many similar treatments have both a cost and clear quality advantage. So, Pallas Clinics, as the largest eye clinic in Switzerland, has a market advantage that helps us in many ways: We attract better specialists, we have tried and tested processes and we can invest more in technology. Taken together, these factors have proved to be crucial for our success.
Has Covid exacerbated the cost explosion in the healthcare sector?
Whether the pandemic has made the cost explosion worse is taking too short a view, I think. Covid has highlighted how ongoing austerity measures can trigger problems for the system. We had too few beds and almost had to shut down the entire economy to protect the sector as a whole. That cost a lot of money. Wouldn't it have been wiser to invest more in the provision of services? We would do well to learn the right lessons from the pandemic. The healthcare system is not only about providing care for the population. But just like in a military context, it’s also about being prepared for possible difficult times ahead.
Doctors' tariffs in ophthalmology have been the subject for discussion for a few years now. The so-called Tarmed tariffs were adjusted as a result. How have these new tariffs influenced the work of the Pallas Clinics?
You’re referring to the situation in 2018. Back then, the tariffs for some treatments were reduced by up to two-thirds. The financial impact this had on our activities was considerable. But apart from that, it was above all the end of an era. Up until that point, there had been a functioning tariff partnership between hospitals, doctors and insurance companies. They set the tariffs together. That came to an end in 2018. It was the first time that the Federal Council – very surprisingly for all market participants – simply decided something by decree so-to-speak.