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The art of privacy



Merian Iselin stands out even among Swiss clinics, which are considered to be the world’s best. The reason is not only their premium medical services; everything is unique here, including the architecture, interior design, comfortable departmental environment and even the paintings. In short, the clinic is beautiful because in the opinion of the clinic’s head, Stephan Fricker, beauty is curative.

– Mr. Fricker, after our last text on Merian Iselin the clinic changed fundamentally. A Premium Gold department has been opened for private patients. I know that you have put your heart into this project. What moved you to make the renovations? What can you offer your patients these days?

– Generally, the health care system is very advanced in Switzerland, and that is why we will always innovate in order to compete with both private and public clinics. We will always offer our client something special and provide premium service.

Nowadays, Merian Iselin is one of the top private clinics in Switzerland. We collaborate with more than 100 doctors, licensed for outpatient and inpatient services, so we can attend individually to all of our clients. All our doctors are highly qualified and provide premium medical services. Primarily, our clinic focuses on orthopedics and urology and it is considered to be one of the three best Swiss orthopedic clinics.

Merian Iselin is also known for its minimal percentage rate of infections introduced during procedures as compared with global and even national figures. Infection is a very serious problem, especially in orthopedics.

Once we had the best specialists, we could focus on a more proper and comfortable organization of the clinic’s space. Thus, we have built the Premium Gold department.

– How is it distinct from other departments?

– On the one hand, our task was to expand the clinic’s square meterage. On the other hand, we had to organize a completely new structure for the private patients, and in a stand-alone unit.

First of all, we pondered the question of what we all expected from the reconstruction. We held meetings and tried to find an answer to this question. Of course, priority was to be given to premium treatment: the clinic’s personnel are continuously improving their skills. But the pleasure and comfort of our guests is just as important – I’m referring to visual pleasure, among other things. Therefore, interior design is very important: materials, colors, illumination, settings and art objects.

For the convenience of our clients, we have built a lounge – a perfectly decorated room with floor-to-ceiling windows and our own restaurant where our guests can enjoy a beautiful view of the city during meals. Generally, Merian Iselin has a remarkable atmosphere. Maybe it is due to our specialization: after all, people come to us to “repair” their bodies, to restore themselves.



– Who was the man behind the idea?

– Of course, our architect played a key role. But the clinic’s management, the head of the anesthesiology department, my deputy Rolf Schwendener, and the nursing heads have all contributed to the architecture and planning of the project, after which the architect brought our proposals to life. For the art aspects, we rely on Urs Albrecht.

This is a very large project: it cost approximately CHF 40 mln. Maybe, on a global scale, we are not so large, with our annual CHF 100 mln. and 130 beds. But our advantage lies in our quick response time and our capacity to provide the services demanded by a patient, regardless of the country from which he or she comes.

– All 130 beds are in the Premium Gold class?

– The Premium Gold category includes 28 beds, but this does not mean that the remaining 102 beds do not meet the highest standards. I have seen a lot of clinics all over the world and I sometimes wonder: do I want to manage this or that clinic? You probably won’t believe me, but I have seen very few medical organizations which I would like to manage. But this clinic is just the one I want!

– I wonder which factors you would consider in choosing a clinic, if you were a patient?

– First of all, the attending doctor is important for me. I would learn of the doctor’s reputation, and how many operations this doctor has performed. I would also learn about the percentage of infected surgical patients, my accommodation, the atmosphere and the personnel’s attitude toward patients… you know, Premium Gold is really wonderful, but the medical aspect is more important. A patient who is waiting for an operation on the knee or the hip is afraid. And this is perfectly natural. We will explain to the patient that we have unique orthopedists and perfect anesthesiologists. They are really highly skilled specialists. And this is very important! After all, I visit a clinic to receive treatment, and if all of the other services are at an advanced level, then this is the cherry on the cake.



– Doctors are the heart and the brain of any clinic. Tell me about your specialists.

– Let’s take two major departments: orthopedics and urology. The orthopedic department includes 40 qualified doctors. Modern medicine is becoming more and more specialized. The advantage is that a highly specialized doctor gains rare knowledge and skills in a particular area. Thus, such professionals are highly prized. And here we are among the leaders: each doctor in our clinic treats his or her own part of the body. We have an orthopedist who treats shoulders, one who takes care of hips, knees and so on. All these doctors feel honored to operate at our clinic, although any specialist in Switzerland can choose the clinic for which he or she wants to work.

– Why do you think this is?

– You had better ask them. Maybe because we have nine highquality and high-technology modern operating rooms, which meet the world’s highest standards – such rooms are hard to find elsewhere.

Besides this, during the last two years we have invested a lot in state-of-the-art equipment for prostate operations and diagnostics, and have purchased Da Vinci robots and lasers at a cost of approximately CHF 3–4 mln. And we have found the perfect partner in alta uro with Professor Alexander Bachmann. These efforts are highly appreciated by medical practitioners on the one part and by patients on the other. Judging by their opinions, they are satisfied, for example, by the prostate cancer diagnostics in our clinic. Generally, about 10 percent of all our operations are urological, and currently the demand for urological medical services is growing swiftly.



– Is the Swiss Olympic Medical Center a part of the clinic?

– Yes, we are a cofounder of this organisation. The outpatient department of the Swiss Olympic Medical Center is serviced by a group of private clinics. We, however, deal with institutional surgical hospital departments at outpatient clinics as well as with radiology. All services rendered are of a high level.

– As we know your clinic is one of Switzerland’s orthopedic leaders, and it would be logical to operate also on athletes who come to the Swiss Olympic Medical Center.

– You have nailed it: we treat many athletes, mainly hockey players, football players, cyclists, tennis players, track and field athletes and even ballet dancers. Some of them are quite well-known. But we don’t go on about them, since we strive for confidentiality. When an athlete is undergoing treatment, he or she usually wants to be alone and safe from the public eye.

– Do Russian athletes come to you?

– Not just yet. We mainly treat sports people from Europe: Germany, Switzerland, Italy …



– Even from Germany? There are a lot of good doctors there…

– That’s right. But as for other aspects of treatment, such as individual attention, convenience, service, and confidentiality, we are two steps ahead. In Switzerland, the level of relationships between service personnel and patients is one third better than in Germany. And in the Premium Gold sector, the difference is even higher. This relates to both nurses and physiotherapists.

– A well-equipped physiotherapy department is very important for any specialized orthopedic clinic.

– That’s right, especially since half of the department’s doctors focus on sports medicine. Our therapists work intensively and efficiently in the department on one hand and in places such as Physio Plus on the other hand. There is the full range of modern physiotherapeutic options. After treatment, patients can be attended to by their physiotherapists in the physiotherapy department or in the rehabilitation department. And it is important to note that these people come back to us later as fitness patients.

– In your opinion, why do they come back? On the whole, which advantages does Merian Iselin offer as compared with its competitors?

– I think it is the proper diagnostics we offer and the total comfort and convenience during a stay in the clinic. But surely, the major advantage is our doctors. However, we provide a lot of these advantages.



– Your Premium Gold sector really has a special spirit. It seems that you are not in a medical establishment, but in a picture gallery or a center for contemporary arts.

– Yes. Here you can see works by well-known photographers. We have one of the largest collections of Alessandro Twombly’s works (the only son of Cy Twombly). Alessandro paints and sculpts fantastic subjects. He visits us sometimes and says that we are his greatest fans. That’s true.

– But how are medicine and art interlinked?

– I’m sure that art is curative. In my opinion, if a patient is surrounded with beautiful interiors or art objects, the treatment will be much more effective. We only buy art objects and, as a rule, our patients like them. We want to make our clinic beautiful.



Stephan Fricker

Has a degree in politics and science. In 1984, he graduated from the University of Basel. In 1996, he earned a master’s degree in health care administration. In 2007, he completed “European Program for the Leadership Development in the Health Care Industry” training at the INSEAD Business School in Fontainebleau (France). From 1985 to 1988 he worked for Coop Company in Switzerland as an organizer. From 1988 to 1990 he was an economist in the Basel-Stadt Health Service Department. From 1991 to 1996 he managed the head office of Basel University Hospital. Since 1996 he has held the office of the head of Merian Iselin Clinic for Orthopedics and Surgery. In addition, since 2003 he has been the financial director of the Swiss Association for Health Care Policy. He is married with two children.

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