SPECIALTY CARE

Colombia 2015 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Fred A. Piza T., Director General, of Clinica Palermo, on restructuring, increasing the international reputation of the clinic, and the impediments to medical tourism in the country.

Fred A. Piza T.
BIOGRAPHY
Fred A. Piza T. is the director general of Clinica Palermo and has 23 years of experience working in the health care industry. He studied business administration, and is a specialist in finance from the Universidad del Rosario, where he also has a Master’s Degree in Health Administration. He was previously planning director at the Corporación Hospitalaria Juan Ciudad – MEDERI; Strategic project officer at Colegio Mayor Nuestra Señora del Rosario; and planning and financial evaluation director at Colegio Mayor Nuestra Señora del Rosario.

Clinica Palermo has undergone various shifts in its managerial structure over recent years. How have these contributed to the capacity of the clinic?

When the clinic began operations in 1948, it was administered by the order of sisters, including the general director and administrative team, and only the scientific director has always been a layperson. Initially, the clinic had 80 beds to attend to maternity patients and related surgeries. In 1953 the second building was inaugurated with six floors and close to 200 beds, which is where we are today. This allowed us to provide better offering and specialized services in gynecology and obstetrics. During the subsequent decades through the 1970s, the clinic invested in biomedical technology. Around 2009, we finalized a long process of shifting to a mixed structure shared by the sisters and laymen. In 2015, a layman assumed general direction, and a nurse assumed directorship of nursing in 2013. I was appointed in February with the task of managing the financial, administrative, and projection aspects of the clinic. Nowadays we have 200 beds, 20 of which are for emergencies, 16 for critical care, 4 for intermediate care, and 14 surgical rooms and 10 incubators in the neonatal care unit.

How have partnerships like the one with IBM contributed to the research capacity of the clinic?

The process was related to IBM's implementation of SAP in 2008-2009. Today it provides the hosting services for our SAP software, and holds our servers and information. It also performs updates and additional developments when required, to guarantee the correct performance of the administration of the clinic. We want to strengthen the research capacity of our clinic. Our aim is to create research groups within the institution and eventually be published in indexed journals, so as to position the clinic internationally. We have yet to establish these research groups, although we will focus on two main research lines: gynecology and obstetrics, and orthopedics, which are the strengths of our clinic.

Do you consider this to be a step towards increasing medical tourism in your clinic?

In fact, nowadays medical tourism is a negligible source of income for medical institutions. Around 3.5% of visitors the country are medical tourists. The projection for 2020 is 5%, in four main lines—curative, preventive, aesthetic and wellbeing, such as obesity-related surgeries. The government has promoted investment in the first two lines, because the largest revenues are currently generated there. However, there are some important barriers such as language, given that only around 55% of local medical doctors and 8% of medical nurses are bilingual. This is important given that the majority of the medical tourists we receive are from the US and Canada. On the other hand, only 32 institutions are certified by ICONTEC, and only two have international certifications, which curbs interest from potential international clients. Legislation also constitutes a barrier, whereby the investment is considerable, and the clinic would require an agreement with a hotel chain.