LFStyle chats to Dr Madeleine Smit of the Turó Park Medical Centre
Why did you decide to set up the Turó Park Medical Centre?
TPMC was the result of 4 years of thinking of how to combine my desire to set up my own practice and the apparent need for a central location where non-Spanish natives could get easy access to the best French and English-speaking doctors and dentists in Barcelona.
I am a Dutch native and had been working at the Quirón Hospital for many years. Over the years I was often asked where to go for such and such a medical problem, and if the specialist I recommended would be able to attend in a language other than Spanish. It became increasingly obvious that Barcelona has great doctors that meet those criteria, but they were difficult to get to as they are spread out throughout the city in various different hospitals and clinics. I found a great location where we could bring all those experts under one roof and provide patients with an extremely fast and easy online appointment system. Personalised and online telemedicine consultations can be arranged for an optional concierge medical service.
What is the philosophy of the centre?
TPMC’s philosophy is to provide foreigners, expats, tourists and locals with easy access to expert doctors. To provide a service covering the vast majority of medical and dental specialties, in one centralised clinic. No matter what health concerns someone or their family may have, our international team of doctors can take care of you. Appointments are easily obtained and patients can be seen at very short notice. We optimise our use of modern technology to bring patients and their doctors closer together. Our online appointment system, telemedicine and concierge medical service are the main ways we make sure to provide such a customised service.
Aside from having multilingual doctors, what makes this medical centre different to others?
Having worked in one of Barcelona’s better known private hospitals for almost 10 years, one of the problems I noticed was the lack of communication and synergy between the departments. At TPMC we have set up a communication protocol between all members of our team that creates and maintains a dynamic exchange of ideas and information. We encourage all our doctors to communicate and share their knowledge between each other, ensuring we all truly collaborate as a team. Our paediatrician can, for example, advise a mother about caesarian scar reduction by laser treatments offered by another member of our team. We also provide personalised and online telemedicine consultations and individualised concierge medical services can be arranged with specific specialists of our team.
We inaugurated our centre only a couple of months ago, and already we are providing more than 10 specialist services. No centre I am aware of in Barcelona covers such a broad range of specialties, in English and French under one roof. We are continuously investigating new services to add to our team. Whatever the health query we offer a solution.
How important do you think having medical advice and expertise in your native language is?
I think it is very important. Health issues are usually experienced as very personal issues. Even people who have lived in Barcelona for a long time and master the language well will feel more comfortable talking to a doctor in a language that is their mother tongue or that simply feels more natural to them. We have had surprisingly enthusiastic reactions from people simply because we answer the phone in English. It is still surprisingly difficult to find an English-speaking doctor in Barcelona, but even more so, to find a hospital or clinic where you can book an appointment or ask some basic questions and be understood. I think the latter is probably the most important. People are discouraged when they contact health centres and have to struggle with Spanish to book an appointment. We try to offer a solution and remove that barrier with our online appointment system and team of assistants that are English-speaking.
The centre covers a range of different specialities. How did you decide which ones to incorporate?
As an orthodontist creating a complete dental team that covers paediatric dentistry, dental implantology and aesthetic dentistry to provide a service for any type of dental concern, was obvious. I then started searching for specialists that expat parents from our local community were asking me for most. Paediatricians, General Family doctors and ENT specialists were the first. Soon we were contacted by other specialists who heard about our concept and simply loved the idea. Many specialists who have work experience abroad recognised the need for a place like TPMC and wanted to be part of it. I think that the enthusiasm of the doctors to work in an international environment is one of our key strengths.
How much experience does your team have?
We have a whole range of doctors of different ages on our team so their experiences vary. They all have work experience outside Spain and this was one of the important criteria for inclusion. Together our experiences cover countries such as the UK, USA, Australia, Switzerland, France, Greece and the Netherlands. The other criteria was to have an active position at one of Barcelona’s leading hospitals, Teknon, Hospital Clínic, Quirón and Sant Joan de Déu.
What innovations do you have at the centre that patients may not find elsewhere?
We are a no-paper clinic. All information gathered from our patients is obtained through tablets. We have several that serve specific purposes. Al informed consents, LOPDs, medical histories and more are provided and kept digitally. We have a specific tablet system that allows patients to do their own “check-in”, so there is no need to queue at the help desk. Another provides patients with a voluntary questionnaire that gives us feedback on the quality of our services, called “check-out”.
We use the latest laser technology for non-surgical facial rejuvenation treatments and all orthodontic treatments are customised. We do not use standardised brackets that are bought in big quantities like most common orthodontic clinics do. All orthodontic appliances we use are made individually for the individual patient and their orthodontic goals. We believe that every smile is different and unique and so the tools used to treat them must be equally so. Modern technology mixed with artisanal hand worked precision allows us to provide everyone with their unique and customised appliance (braces). We are also incorporating an optical scan that will allow us to take dental impressions with a camera rather than the traditional paste. This is not only more comfortable for the patient, much more precise in its detail,and we can get these digital impressions to the various laboratories much faster than with the traditional alginate or silicone impressions.
The other mayor innovation is our imminent plans to create an application that will allow not only our patients but people form all over the world, to consult our specialists, in a language of their choice, via a telemedicine service of online consulting. People can ask for second opinions and follow-up from previous visits. Being both a physical and an online clinic is unique to our knowledge.
Another relatively new concept that we are introducing is preventative healthcare. We provide “General Whole Body Checks” specific to women, men and children where we have combined knowledge of different specialists of our team. Such checks may involve blood analysis, ECG, extensive health and habits questionnaire, dental check and fillings prevention treatment, which aim to serve as a preventative measure, prevention being better than curing. This is a very anglo-amercian concept that we are now introducing in Barcelona.
The centre accepts various health insurance companies. How does that work for patients?
We are a private medical centre which means that to date we have no specific deals with insurance companies. We provide patients with and invoice that they then send to their insurance company. The vast majority of insurance companies offer policies of “reimbursement”. Our patients who have those policies (and again, the vast majority do), simply send our invoice to their insurer and get anywhere between 80% and 100% of their money back. Our medical analysis service, which runs each morning from Monday to Saturday, is provided in collaboration with Labco (General Lab) and is not invoiced in the case of the most common tests. Patients simply provide their insurance card and we take care of the rest.
And for those who do not have health insurance but would like to take advantage of a specialist’s knowledge, what are the centre’s costs?
First visits with the Orthodontist (me) and the Facial Aesthetic specialist are free. All other services range from 70€ to 120€ depending on the speciality. Our Speech Therapist and Physiotherapist offer packs of several sessions at a discount. We also regularly provide discounts for some aesthetic treatments.
What plans do you have for the future?
Our immediate future plans are focused on getting our telemedicine service and concierge medical service structured and working. It is not unlikely that in the future we may expand into a separate units for dental end medical care. As we grow we will continue to incorporate the latest technology for diagnostics and treatment.