Rozhovor – Wolfram A Schleuter

I was deciding whether to be a businessman or a doctor

Wolfram A Schleuter is a German born serial entrepreneur who started up several successful businesses in Germany, the UK, Czech Republic, UAE and other countries. He graduated from London Business School and holds a Master of Leadership Certification from the European Leadership Institute (Harvard/Insead/London Business School) and attended the Harvard President’s Program at Harvard Business School in Boston in the United States. His medical management education includes a Harvard Medical School Lifestyle Medicine Program in addition to the Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience Executive Program. In May 2021, he embarked on a new business venture and founded Concierge Medicine Europe, a private clinic in Prague.

So far, you have built and run many successful businesses – two travel agencies or professional flight simulators – and now there is the first anniversary of your private clinic. Is there any connection between these types of businesses?

When I was about 18 years old, I wondered whether I wanted to be a doctor or a businessman – both were very appealing to me. Then I started volunteering nights and weekends at the Red Cross, but at the same time I became a businessman – I started a travel operator which became the biggest provider of tours to the UK in Germany. Later I ventured into the flight simulator business and now into healthcare. My focus has always been on providing excellent service to the end customer – so that’s what my businesses have in common.

And why a private clinic?

When I sold my travel business, I went to the US to study medical leadership at Harvard Medical School and gained experience at the best clinics in the world, such as the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic. I am particularly interested in the concept of Lifestyle Medicine and the Concierge Medicine approach.

Why did you open your clinic in Prague? Are there some more countries to follow?

I’ve been living in the Czech Republic with my family for about 13 years and Prague is like my home. But I wasn’t satisfied with the healthcare my family received. And when you’re a businessman, dissatisfaction can quickly become a business opportunity – because many other people feel the same way. And speaking about expanding into other countries, my experience from my previous business is, that rapid expansion into other markets means huge demands on me as a business owner. I simply can’t be in multiple places at the same time. That’s why I am now focusing on one project at one location. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to grow. There is already a plan to open another clinic on the other side of the Vltava River in Prague, to be closer to our patients. Then some of the other Czech cities and in the future maybe Slovakia, Austria or other countries are under consideration.

Your clinic was opened a year ago, how would you evaluate the past 12 months?

As very successful. Although we are in a niche business, and the market for premium medical care is not that big, we have seen a very high interest from patients who travel from other countries, typically from the UK, to see our doctors. Our Manager Check-up service has been very popular, where our clients are examined by 6 different doctors within 6 hours and get a very detailed picture of their health, along with valuable recommendations on how to have a healthier life. Paradoxically, the pandemic has helped us a bit as people have become more concerned about their health. You see, we routinely take our cars to a dealership for expensive checkups and repairs, but people are not used to investing too much in their health. We can buy a new car, but not our health.

Could this be a definition of your “lifestyle medicine” approach?

It certainly is, at least partially. Lifestyle medicine means that we strive for our patients to have healthy lives. So, we don’t just treat sick patients, but we look after athletes and other clients who want to improve their lifestyle and prolong their healthy, active life through prevention. That’s why we also have nutritionists and fitness experts on our team.

We also offer remote consultations via videoconferencing. What is the demand for such a service and what other digital technologies are helping you?

You correctly say consultation, not treatment. In fact, so-called telemedicine is nothing more than video chats we have several a day with colleagues or family. There is definitely an interest in remote consultations; many of our clients travel a lot, so this way of communication with a doctor is comfortable for them. However, remotely a doctor can assess for example a rash or other minor ailments, but when you start having chest pain and breathing heavily, don’t call your doctor for a consultation via WhatsApp, go straight to the ambulance.
Otherwise, when it comes to technology, we use cloud services, because our clients‘ personal data must be perfectly secure, while a server somewhere in the corner of the office certainly isn’t, and also accessible to our doctors in a secure way from anywhere – because of the possibility of consultations outside office hours.

What do you think are the benefits of technologies like AI in healthcare?

Certainly, a big one, but I see it primarily as a useful addition to the knowledge and years of experience of doctors. For example, they can help with the interpretation of X-ray images, but I personally would definitely like to hear the doctor’s opinion in the end. In the same way, I don’t think anyone should trust a mobile app to assess changes in their skin, for example. So yes, development is moving forward, technology is helping, but medicine is (thankfully) such a conservative and regulated field that machines won’t be treating us on their own for a long time. Although, who knows what the future brings to us…

We routinely take our cars to a dealership for expensive checkups and repairs, but people are not used to investing too much in their health. We can buy a new car, but not our health.

Are you afraid of the cloud? It’s unnecessary. The cloud is more than enough secure even for the healthcare. Clients‘ personal data needs to be perfectly secure, while a server somewhere in the corner of the office certainly isn’t, and also accessible to doctors in a secure way from anywhere.