"If there's one place in the world where you can easily become passionate about business and find the courage to take risks, it's the US. At least that's how it works for me," says Adam Janek, director and board member of Eye Centre Prague (OCP). This is proven by the fact that OCP is moving forward in full speed and not giving up on its vision despite the difficult times when some other companies may rather be looking for a lifeline. Next spring OCP is moving to new premises and will thus become one of the biggest eye clinics with purely Czech capital in our country.
We still have a lot to learn from the US
This issue of TRADE NEWS is focused on the US. When was the last time you were there and what inspired you the most?
In April I was at the largest annual congress of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS), this year it was in Washington. We attend this event every year because we always get some inspiration there, be it new trends in ophthalmology, latest technologies or experience from US clinics. They are still way ahead of us. Unfortunately, not everything can be introduced in our conditions, as Czech healthcare has a different setup. On top, Czech clients still have negative feelings about premium care and additional insurance covers, and they are overall very reluctant to pay for healthcare. However, high-quality services cannot be free, particularly if we want the best and the most advanced methods.
Speaking of payments, I have to ask this question. How much have you raised your prices due to the ongoing inflation?
For most people, the price increase can be very hard to bear, and companies are also getting into trouble. In the healthcare sector, reimbursements from health insurance companies have seen very little growth, but that’s understandable given the situation worldwide. We are trying not to offload all this onto our patients, and so far we’ve only increased the price of two items. Other than that, we aim to make our services available to as many people as possible. That's our philosophy: quality and affordable care.
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I know you don’t want to compromise on quality. Since the beginning, you have worked closely with the US company Lenstec, leading manufacturer of intraocular lenses. You even helped develop their two premium intraocular lenses, which you have successfully applied with your clients for several years now.
Yes, and we are very happy that these lenses received the so-called FDA approval from the US Food and Drug Administration this August. The FDA approval means that the lenses are now certified to be used in the US. These certification processes are known to be very long and demanding – this one took eight years. We are rightly proud that our expert doctors have taken part in the development of these lenses, which are the only ones in the world with a unique gradation by quarter-dioptres, and thus allow for more accurate and better vision. On top of that, OCP was the one clinic that performed all preclinical studies during the whole certification period. As a result, no one in the world has as much experience with these lenses as our doctors. We are due to have a presentation on the topic at next year’s annual ASCRS congress in San Diego.
In a way, you will thus represent our country at one of the most prestigious industry events in the US. Does Czech ophthalmology have a good reputation in the world?
I think we really have a great reputation. One proof of that is the ever-increasing number of our foreign clients, as nearly ten percent of our clients come from England and Scotland for instance.
Isn't it just because British healthcare has its issues and because Czech healthcare is more affordable?
That plays a role too, but if these clients only went for the price, they would head further east. However, they choose our clinic and their numbers are increasing. Next year, we expect that German customers will also start coming to us. In addition, the number of our Czech clients, who are always a priority for us, also keeps growing. This was also the reason why we started thinking of moving to new premises to expand the clinic, since the current capacities are far from sufficient.
In the spring of 2023, Eye Centre Prague is moving to new premises at the Skanska-designed Port7 office building, right next to Holešovice railway station.
We set our own boundaries
How is it that you plan to open a new clinic in these complex and unpredictable times?
We have been pondering over it for several years, the idea did not come to us overnight. We started thinking about it before covid, then the war in Ukraine broke out... But together with our shareholders we agreed not to back down, and that’s something I am very thankful for.
I bet that over time, you must have had to review your plans, increase the budget or deal with any other issues.
That’s right – the budget has doubled over time. During the pandemic, we signed a long-term contract for seventeen years with Skanska who will manage the whole project. For a company with exclusively Czech capital, an 80-million project may seem a bit too much to take on, but I’m sure we can handle it.
Can you tell us more about the new clinic? Where will it be? And how will it increase your capacity?
We wanted to stay in Prague's Holešovice district, which is why we went for the Skanska Port7 project, which is transforming the industrial zone near the Troja bridge into a new, state-of-the-art centre of Holešovice. We also liked the excellent accessibility. In one of the three new office buildings, we will have almost 2,000 square metres instead of the 400 square metres we are using in our current premises. We will also have four hi-tech operating theatres, two dozen examination rooms and specialist outpatient clinics. On top, there will also be a pharmacy or an optician’s shop. We are expecting to increase the number of clients and surgeries by about 30% right after we move in, and we estimate more growth further on.
For us, quality will always be more than volume. And Czech patients will remain at the forefront.
This way, you will become the largest Czech private eye clinic, is that correct?
Yes, but I would emphasise again the word ‘Czech’. There are of course much bigger clinics here, but they are owned by foreign capital. Prospective investors have been knocking on our door, eager to put their money in OCP. But most of them are looking to buy now and sell in three years. They do it only to gain profit. That’s not something we want – we simply don’t want to go down this road and become nothing but a money machine. For us, quality will always be more than volume. And Czech patients will always remain at the forefront.
Adam Janek was interviewed by Jana Jenšíková
Photo credits: OCP and Skanska