September 2015

One-stop medicine

A family expects a great deal from their family doctor: high-quality treatment at a low cost, sensitive care and round-the-clock availability. The example of the Pilatus Practice in Lucerne shows how the general practitioner model satisfies these wishes.

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Pilatus Practice, Lucerne

Everyone who comes here immediately feels at home: the reception room feels like the entrance to a private home as friendly assistants greet patients from the counter and sunlight falls on the light parquet floor through the windows. Red and green children’s jackets hang from the coat rack while toys await their little owners underneath. Behind a glass partition in the middle of the waiting room, a sort of oversized children’s shop sells toys and children’s books. Here, the children’s corner seems to have been moved to the centre, just as children are at the centre of a family almost as soon as they enter the world. For the young family doctor Reto Kummer, himself a father of four, the word “centre” has a threefold meaning: “First, family medicine is at the centre of what we do; second, we see ourselves as a small centre in which we cover different disciplines; and third we are located at the centre of Lucerne.” The disciplines covered by the practice include general internal medicine, gynaecology and paediatrics.

Reto Kummer is one of seven doctors based in the family practice. The gynaecologists’ and paediatricians’ consulting rooms are located next door to each other and each room is fitted with sandy-coloured shelves, tables and chairs. Covering 900 square metres spread over two floors, the premises include a laboratory, a chemist’s, X-ray and ultrasound equipment, a ward for outpatient treatment and a room for ECG examinations.

From grandfather to granddaughter/ son

Founded in 2002, the Pilatus Practice is a joint-stock company and according to Kummer, that is why it works so well - because it is independent. “This enables us to purchase state-of-the-art equipment, for example, without having to ask someone first.” The practice treats about 10,000 patients, with roughly half of them visiting as a family. That is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the practice. “We want to accompany patients throughout their entire life cycle, from birth to death,” says Kummer, “and across successive generations too.” The example of an extended family shows that this is not merely a declaration of intent: some 20 members of a family – parents, daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren – are treated here, many of them by Reto Kummer himself. The advantages are clear: the doctor is familiar with a family’s resources and can see correlations between the medical histories.

Lower premiums thanks to coordination

At the Pilatus Practice, patients affiliated to a general practitioner model benefit in particular: they have a permanent contact partner here for all their health problems. Before every treatment, they have to contact their family doctor as required by the alternative insurance model. The doctor coordinates their treatments even with the consultants with whom the practice cooperates. Networking among doctors, therapists and hospitals is a matter of course in the general practitioner model and this includes electronic networking. For example, the Pilatus Practice exchanges information with the Lucerne Cantonal Hospital online. The doctors in the practice therefore have access to the latest diagnoses, laboratory results, X-rays and medication of their patients. By coordinating all their treatments, they also maintain an overview of the situation. In this way, the treatments are safer and there are fewer duplications. This helps reduce costs which means premium discounts for our customers.

Another advantage of the general practitioner model is availability: in an emergency, the doctor will make a house call around the clock 365 days a year. The Pilatus Practice is also open until 6 p.m. weekdays and 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, as well as on Saturday mornings, a fact that is very practical for people who work. Another thing that is important for patients here is that doctors make time for you. “We don’t work on a five- or 10-minute clock,” Dr Kummer assures us.

The success of the practice, which has recently taken over the top floor as well, is reflected in the low turnover rate of both staff and patients. What’s more, the latter aren’t afraid to travel a long way to get here, be it from the Red Cross, Dagmersellen or even Altdorf some 25 miles away.

Text: Daniela Diener