AMCHAM: Please explain the sequences of information that made you personally aware of the emerging Covid crisis in Luxembourg?
Dr. Bollendorff: When the new Coronavirus was identified in China in early January, access to information digitally has obviously enabled us to be informed very quickly of the emergence of the pandemic in the various countries of Europe.
More precisely, in Luxembourg, very early on, the Ministry of Health disseminated clear lines of conduct, communicating regularly with all doctors by distributing information circulars regularly, up to several times a day.
AMCHAM: How did you and your staff assess this risk and what were your first actions in response to protect yourselves, your employees, and your clients?
The Ministry’s directives were very clear from the start also by providing protective equipment for nursing and administrative staff in medical offices, even when there was a shortage elsewhere in Europe.
In our office, we very early on set up a protocol to respect barrier gestures, social distancing, and hand washing for each patient who came through the door.
AMCHAM: How has your approach for managing this Covid crisis evolved over the period of this crisis and what management practices changes have you made to protect your medical business practice, your employees, and your customers.
When the Covid crisis hit, it affected all areas of our life and work.
For our team, the most important challenge was to provide the best care through our presence and availability for our patients.
As such, we were available for teleconsultations on Monday, March 13 all day while the advance care centers were set up.
When it was possible to resume the consultation in the office, our team put in place the recommendations to be able to receive patients.
It was crucial to be able to set up a safe environment for both the patients and the healthcare and administrative team.
This new reality forced us to find solutions helping our patients maintain medical monitoring which necessarily involved digitalization, setting teleconsultation, and transmission of documents in a computerized and secure manner.
Hence our reinforced desire to move towards greater digitalization in certain fields of medicine.
AMCHAM: What information guidance and support did you receive from the Luxembourg government, and did you find this sufficient and appropriately helpful? Was there anything else that you would have liked to have had from the government?
I would say at this stage that the Ministry of Health has been very reactive in the management of this unprecedented crisis.
Doctors and patients alike have been and still are supported with protective equipment for example. Advance care centers were put in place from the first week of confinement so the Covid patients and the non-Covid patients wouldn’t cross each other. A teleconsultation platform has also been set up to dematerialize documents such as incapacity for work, prescriptions, and bills of fees. This facilitated access to care for the population
AMCHAM: How did the situation evolve and what is the current business recovery status of your clients and your practice in Luxembourg?
Covid has changed our life significantly. There will be a before-Covid and an after-Covid.
Currently, we have resumed the consultation mainly in practice and we save the teleconsultation for situations where there is suspicion of Covid.
We have also strengthened our team of caregivers with two new medical colleagues who joined us by the end of 2020.
All this was always done with the perspective of offering diversified care with general practitioners who have skills in areas as varied as chronic pain, sleep disorders, help with smoking cessation and addictions.
AMCHAM: How have the needs of your customers evolved over this period of crisis and where are they today?
If we are talking about patients, I think many of them were seeking valid medical information about, first the disease, then it evolved around the vaccines. During this era of over-information where everyone can find what they’re looking for on the web, the vast majority of people were still ranking information given by health care providers on top of the list. Patients’ “needs” were really COVID-focused at the beginning of the crises. But now and since mid-2020, we found back our usual routine with all the various reasons of consultation you can imagine, but with a mask on.
Nowadays, patients still need our help to determine whether they should take up a COVID-19 test and which one to perform when they have a cold or other unspecific symptoms.
AMCHAM: As we continue to recovery how do you see the reality of the emerging “New Normal” on your business model?
The major impact on how a medical practice works would be the democratization of teleconsultation which was highlighted during the pandemic. I think patients start to get used to it and will continue to use this service in the future, which in my opinion is not only a good thing.
It could help in small villages without any GP, but it is not a real consultation in my opinion. We shouldn’t call it “teleconsultation” but maybe “telemedical advice”.
Without seeing, touching, or hearing we cannot, as doctors, make diagnoses in the right conditions. It could even be harmful in some situations, for example, a headache which could be the symptom of severe high blood pressure that you cannot check by phone.
Even a usual treatment renewal should always lead to an examination in order to detect side effects or screen new medical issues.
Moreover, it will never replace a face-to-face appointment which is essential in our patient-centered job for establishing a good patient-doctor relation.
AMCHAM: From your perspective as a medical services practice, what have you and your staff learned and how have you changed your leadership and management approaches as a result of coming through this crisis?
We learned that sometimes we need to take a step back and admit what we know and what we don’t know which is not always easy to say as a doctor. But I’m sure it helps reinforce the patient-doctor trust relation which is essential. Communication is the key. I think most people prefer to have good and understandable information about their health condition and treatment rather than just another prescription.
AMCHAM: As a business leader operating in Luxembourg, how and in what ways are you optimistic and pessimistic for the future?
In my opinion, the future was brightened by the arrival of vaccines, and I hope people will keep getting their doses, even if we are told to have other injections in the future. Otherwise, I’ll start to be pessimistic. But I’m optimistic about the fact that we’ll make our best to keep providing the best health care we can no matter how the situation evolves.
On a more practical side, we know that this pandemic caused an increase in anxiety, depression, isolation, or even an increase in alcohol and tobacco consumption, and as a GP who is already facing these issues a lot today, I’m quite pessimistic about the mental health of our generation and its direct impact on health in general.
AMCHAM: Please assess Luxembourg’s attractiveness as an international business location, most especially for non-Luxembourg international people. Going forward, what are your perceptions of Luxembourg’s perceived Strengths and Weaknesses.
Being geographically in the center of Europe certainly helps, but I mainly think that job opportunities are the key element for foreigners to come to Luxembourg. Since they are so many people from all around the globe here, it is quite easy for people to work here, even if they don’t speak Luxembourgish, German or French. Let’s remember it is not common to have a place in Europe where you can make a living and not feel isolated even if you don’t speak one of the official languages. In my case, as a GP, I’m happy to provide those people health care since I can speak English like many other doctors here, meaning that it simplifies health care access for people from all around the world. It adds a multicultural dimension to my work which is open-minded and rewarding.
Business-related; a strength of Luxembourg is that it’s a human-sized country. Thus, many administrative tasks are quite simple and quick compared to other countries, meaning more time to concentrate on your “real” work.
The only weakness I can think about right now is the traffic jam every morning.
AMCHAM: Dear Dr. Bollendorff, please use this opportunity to pass along whatever additional advice and opinions you would wish to share with our readers.
I want to put the accent on the preventative aspect of Health.
The first risk factor is high blood pressure.
The diagnostic and treatment are easy.
The second important Risk factor is a Bad mental Health, stress disorder, depression…
Here also a diagnosis and a treatment are possible.
Our Brain is the most fragile organ of our body and the most neglected one.
So please care about it.