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Top destination for prevention, diagnostics and therapy

Berlin is also the medical capital of Germany. No other city offers a comparable variety of hospitals and medical practices with such a broad range of healthcare services. Nowhere else do medical technology and biotech firms work so closely together with clinical partners, and nowhere else can a similar breadth of medical science and research be found. 

More and more people from all over the world are coming to Berlin for the purposes of prevention, diagnostics and therapy. The number of international visitors who come to Berlin for medical reasons has increased by 15 percent since 2012. It is above all patients from the Arab world, Russia and China who seek treatment here. In Berlin’s hospitals and outpatient surgeries they find the very best doctors, as well as specialists able to treat even rare conditions.

Yet Berlin has even more to offer: those wishing to recuperate after medical treatment will find numerous opportunities for relaxation, enjoyment and culture in this very green city. The surrounding Brandenburg region boasts all kinds of possibilities for rehabilitation, exercise and recuperation, often by a lake or in a forest – the perfect place to recharge one’s batteries and recover to full health.

Medical Excellence: Novelties in treatment methods and diagnostics

Kai Abresch Fotografie

Baby undergoes successful heart surgery without donor blood

At just eleven days old, Lotte is probably the youngest patient ever to undergo successful heart surgery of such complexity without receiving blood from a donor. For the operation at the Deutsches Herzzentrum Berlin (DHZB), a heart-lung machine specially developed for newborns was used. For years, DHZB surgeons and paediatric cardiologists have been working on systems that do not require donor blood. This minimizes the risks of infection and intolerance, and allows patients to recover more quickly. The DHZB is currently the only heart centre worldwide to routinely use these systems. More information about the DHZB can be found here.  More information about the DHZB can be found here.

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Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Charité professor wins 2016 Berlin Science Award

Neuroscientist and stroke expert Professor Ulrich Dirnagl has received the 2016 Berlin Science Award. The accolade pays tribute to his numerous research contributions in the field of stroke research, cerebral blood flow and cerebral imaging. An internationally renowned scientist, he heads the Experimental Neurology department at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and is the director of the Center for Stroke Research Berlin. The award is endowed with 40,000 euros. More information about the Charité can be found here.

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Biobank
Photo: Berlin Institute of Health

New biobank provides foundation for outstanding research

Since December 2016, Berlin has had an ultra-modern biobank, giving the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) access to a storage facility that is unique in Germany. In future, it will be possible to store up to two million lab samples from patients in the new building at the Campus Virchow-Klinikum and make them available for research purposes. Together with the corresponding treatment data, the biological material will be collected, encrypted and stored. The collection will allow the progression and causes of diseases to be better studied in future, and new personalized therapies to be developed. More information about the Charité can be found here.

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Medical care at the highest level

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Berlin: comprehensive medical care of the highest quality

Modern healthcare concepts are all about preventing disease in the first place. Exercise and a healthy diet are important preventive measures, as are regular check-ups of key organs such as the heart and lungs – to ensure that serious diseases can be detected at an early stage. Many hospitals and medical practices in Berlin are specially geared to patients who visit the city for a course of medical check-ups. Offering everything from short routine examinations to full organ analyses, they provide an outstanding service with no waiting times. 

If there is any suspicion that a patient is suffering from a disease, Berlin’s hospitals and medical practices use the very latest diagnostic techniques, such as CT, MRI and X-ray, to check. Cardiovascular diagnostics, bowel and breast cancer screenings and cutting-edge laboratory methods are also employed.

When patients require a particular course of treatment, they will find everything they need in Berlin’s numerous hospitals – from basic care to high-end medicine. Straightforward plastic surgery is performed safely and professionally. Complicated heart surgery, joint replacement or a bone marrow or liver transplant are also on offer.

Children with their special therapeutic requirements are also treated with the greatest expertise and care in the city’s hospitals. The Charité offers a programme for children suffering from rare or serious diseases that is unique in Germany. Interdisciplinary teams of doctors are on hand to ensure the right diagnosis. Suitable treatment is then performed immediately so that the young patients can return home as quickly as possible.

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Quality Management in German hospitals

Quality is taken very seriously in the German healthcare system, and this is no less true in Berlin. Hospitals are legally required to guarantee and document the quality of the medical services they provide. Specific quality indicators are defined for numerous areas. Hospitals have a legal obligation to submit structured quality reports each year, which are generally available to patients online. One quality assurance measure is that hospitals are only allowed to offer treatments of which they perform a minimum number per year. This ensures that they have the necessary expertise.

German quality regulations also include strict rules governing hospital hygiene practices. This is intended to curb the spread of multi-drug resistant bacteria (e.g. MRSA, ESBL), thereby protecting patients from life-threatening infections. Hygiene regulations may include extensive examinations of patients upon admission. Strict regulations may apply to visitors if there is any suspicion of germs. If the suspicion is confirmed, patients are treated on quarantine wards so as to protect other patients from infection.

Thanks to such intensive quality assurance measures, the standards of healthcare in Germany are very high. To further improve medical care, numerous initiatives are in place to promote active error management. Renowned hospitals play a leading role in the quality committees by setting a good example themselves.

            

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Clinics with a broad spectrum of care

There are more than 90 hospitals with roughly 22,000 beds in Berlin. They provide their patients with the complete spectrum of medical care. Complex treatment and surgery are performed using highly specialized medical equipment. Inpatients benefit from close and precise monitoring and care at all times. Berlin’s hospitals offer diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care in all specialist medical fields and for virtually every conceivable medical condition.

Hospitals in Berlin differ in terms of size and specialization. Apart from those offering primary care, there are hospitals specialized in particular diseases such as cardiological or orthopaedic conditions. Then there are what are known as maximum-level care providers, which treat complex and complicated conditions in line with the latest scientific findings. These include all of the Charité’s sites, plus some of the Vivantes and Helios hospitals. University hospitals like the Charité additionally combine their work with scientific research and teaching.

Medical rehabilitation is a medical discipline in its own right in Germany, and is on offer in specialist hospitals. Its aim is to fully restore patients to health so that they can again cope with their personal and work lives under their own steam. Rehabilitation takes place following cardiovascular operations and includes an exercise and diet regime to ensure that the patient can lead a healthier life again. After orthopaedic surgery, patients have to relearn motor skills, while oncological rehabilitation is designed to teach patients how to make the necessary lifestyle changes.

In terms of their organizational structure, Berlin’s hospitals are run by various institutions – some public, some private and others non-profit. Though this makes no difference when it comes to providing high-quality medical care, the style of and approach to patient care may differ from one hospital to another.

Selection of hospitals

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Quick implementation of research findings

High-end research and top-class medicine are closely related. Patients who seek treatment in Berlin benefit from the fact that hospitals quickly incorporate new products and procedures into their everyday routines. This is thanks to close cooperation between hospitals and the city’s thriving research scene and numerous biotech and medical technology companies.
Currently, 35 major research institutions and universities are working in the field of life sciences in the German capital. They include the internationally renowned Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, the Fraunhofer and Max Planck institutes and the institutes of the Helmholtz and Leibniz associations. In 2013, the Charité and Max Delbrück Center established a biomedical research institution, the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH). Its goal is to ensure that research findings from the life sciences are implemented in a quicker and more targeted manner for the benefit of patients. 

In recent years, the outstanding scientific environment and wide-ranging clinical research scene have prompted more and more global pharmaceutical companies to base themselves in Berlin. Numerous creative start-ups are also implementing their innovative projects in Berlin, shaping the future of medical care.

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Tradition and innovation

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Healthcare then and now

Berlin combines centuries of medical tradition with the very latest medical developments. Medical history has been made over the years by the pioneering specialists at Berlin’s Charité – who include Rudolf Virchow, Robert Koch and Paul Ehrlich. As a research institution, the Charité has produced more than half of all Germany’s Nobel laureates in physiology and medicine. Thanks to its numerous outstanding projects and research units at the German Research Foundation (DFG), it remains one of Germany’s most research-intensive medical facilities to this day.

Basic clinical research plays a fundamental role when it comes to tackling ever new medical challenges, as do key disciplines in IT and nanotechnology. Every day, the close cooperation between clinical practitioners and researchers yields medical innovations that directly benefit patients. A thriving start-up scene is constantly searching for digital solutions in the area of healthcare, which additionally accelerates the pace of medical innovation in Berlin.

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Charité – the largest university hospital in Europe

The Charité in Berlin is one of Europe’s oldest and largest teaching hospitals. Established outside the city walls in 1710, it was originally intended for plague victims. Just a century later, the hospital was entirely rebuilt and became the medical faculty of the University of Berlin that had just been founded. The Rudolf Virchow Krankenhaus was built in the early nineteenth century, while the late twentieth century saw the medical faculty of the Humboldt-Universität merge with the Virchow-Klinikum to form the “Universitätsklinikum Charité”. Another merger with the “Universitätsklinikum Benjamin Franklin” of the Freie Universität in 2003 led to one of Europe’s largest teaching hospitals: “Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin”. It has four major campuses where academic teaching, research and patient care are combined to form one complete whole – its motto being “research, teaching, healing, helping”.

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Berlin: Germany's leading research location

Berlin is one of Europe’s leading centres of science and research, thanks in particular to its focus on medicine, medical technology, biotechnology, optical technologies, information and communication technologies. Young people from all over the world come to Berlin to learn, research and teach, attracted by the city’s four universities, the Charité teaching hospital, seven universities of applied sciences and over 30 private universities.

Technology parks ensure intensive collaboration between researchers and practitioners. More than 1,000 companies, ten non-university research centres and Humboldt-Universität’s Campus Adlershof are based at the Berlin Adlershof Science City, for example. This makes Adlershof one of the most successful high-tech hubs in Germany. Over 15,000 people work at this well-developed urban site, which is also home to over 6,500 students.

Covering 31,000 square metres, Campus Berlin-Buch is one of Germany’s largest biotech parks, combining basic and medical research with a particular focus on biotechnology and biomedicine. A dedicated centre provides support to start-ups, and numerous life sciences companies are based here. The campus atmosphere is conducive to intensive technology transfer and makes interdisciplinary projects possible.

All national research organizations – such as the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG), the Helmholtz Association (HGF), the Leibniz Association (WGL) and the Max Planck Society – are represented in Berlin, each of them with several institutes. Founded in 2009, the Einstein Foundation Berlin promotes science and research at the highest international level with a view to establishing Berlin long-term as an attractive centre for science.

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Digital technologies on the move

Globalization and ageing populations mean that “e-health” applications are becoming increasingly relevant. In this context, the very latest information and communication technologies are used in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and patient monitoring. They allow information to be shared more quickly and more securely – in many cases even internationally.

Berlin boasts a dynamic IT sector and has long played an active role in the development of telemedical applications. Hospitals work hand in hand with research institutions and telemedical centres to develop medical informatics and telemedicine and put them into routine clinical practice.

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ICC Berlin International Congress Center
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City for medical meetings and conventions

Berlin is the congress capital in Germany and for the last years has been one of the top five international destinations for meetings and conventions. The largest part goes back to events in the medical and pharmaceutical sector. The Berlin Convention Office provides an up-to-date overview of the forthcoming events: Congress Calendar Medical & Pharmaceutical.

Each year in October Berlin is hosting the World Health Summit, where more than 1.600 leaders and stakeholders meet from academia, politics, the private sector and civil society organizations. Current and future health issues and challenges in health care are discussed from different perspectives.

 

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Highly qualified specialists

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Various medical experts

Anyone wishing to become a doctor in Germany has to complete a university degree in human medicine. Strictly regulated, the course takes roughly six years. Successful graduates acquire the title “doctor”. They can then apply for a licence to practise medicine. A doctor can subsequently take further qualifications in a particular specialist field to acquire the title “medical specialist”. It is also possible to take a PhD and acquire the (German) title “Dr. med.”. By taking a professorial qualification at a university, a doctor can become a “professor”. Doctors who have acquired this professorial qualification but do not currently have a chair at a university may be known as “Privatdozenten” (literally “private lecturers”), or “PD” for short.

For international patients, it is important to understand that doctors in Germany are not allowed to treat patients unless they have a licence to practise medicine. This protects patients from being treated by persons without sufficient knowledge.

Even if a doctor does not have a title such as “Dr” or “Professor”, this does not mean in Germany that they are not a doctor. Every doctor who works in a hospital will always have passed all the examinations required by law, and as such is qualified to treat patients regardless of whether they have the “Dr” title or not.

Selection of chief physicians and specialists

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Resident doctors

In addition to the hospital-based doctors, another 9,200 doctors in Berlin work in general and specialist practices which deliver ambulatory care. They have the same qualifications as doctors in hospitals, and indeed will in many cases have worked in hospitals themselves before moving to their practice. To acquire the title “medical specialist”, they will have completed several years of further training and passed the requisite exams.

With its huge number of doctors in medical practices, Berlin offers the widest imaginable range of specialist medical facilities and disciplines. Besides general practitioners, you will also find paediatricians, dentists, orthodontists and dermatologists. Cardiologists, oncologists, radiotherapists and many others are also available.

In many cases, several specialists work together in a shared practice. This is an advantage for patients, as it gives them access to all the necessary medical expertise relating to a particular condition under one roof. They also profit directly from the interdisciplinary exchange between the doctors. For example, a specialist orthopaedic centre will offer conservative or surgical treatment for every conceivable orthopaedic condition – including diagnostic radiology and follow-up physiotherapy.

Selection of doctor's surgeries

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Professional care with personal attention

Some 1.2 million people work as nurses in Germany. In Berlin, around 42,000 nurses in hospitals provide care to patients, as well as to sick and older people in outpatient care facilities. Training of nurses is regulated by law and takes three years, with an examination at the end. Qualified nurses can then embark on further training, specializing for example in areas such as surgery or intensive care. Nurses have sound medical knowledge, and tend to have extensive professional experience of dealing with patients. Quality-oriented hospitals attach great important to the further training of their nursing staff. They make additional courses available to them, as well as refresher courses aimed at keeping their skills up-to-date, e.g. in the area of wound treatment or hygiene.

Patients in hospitals can always turn to a nurse with any question, be it of a medical, personal or social nature. Many Berlin hospitals provide multilingual care, employing international nurses who are able to talk to patients in their native languages. Where this is not possible, an interpreter can often be provided.

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Recreation after the hospital stay

Complete recovery after a hospital stay often requires further medical support. A patient who has undergone orthopaedic surgery may already be quite capable of coping with everyday life, but will still need to undergo physiotherapy or additional treatments to further the convalescence process. In such cases patients can take advantage of the ambulatory physiotherapy services on offer in Berlin. With a referral from their specialist, the patient will arrange an appointment with a physiotherapy practice, preferably close to their hotel or apartment, after checking that the required services are on offer there. The physiotherapist then draws up an individual treatment plan together with the patient, working out which treatment sessions will be necessary over a specific timeframe.

A broad range of specialist suppliers of healthcare products and pharmaceuticals can be found throughout Germany, and this is certainly true of Berlin – the city boasts more than 900 pharmacies that have a legal mandate to supply medicines and other pharmaceutical products. Pharmacies also offer night-time and emergency services, and compound individual medications on site. The full range of over-the-counter and prescription drugs is available from pharmacies, which will also provide extensive expert advice about how to take or apply the product in question. There are tougher regulations governing prescription drugs in Germany than for example in the USA and many other countries. As a result, you may find that a drug you can buy over-the-counter at home requires a prescription here. There are also more than 250 specialist medical supply stores in Berlin, where patients with a prescription can obtain products such as orthopaedic insoles, customized shoes or walking aids. The expert staff at these shops can provide advice about supplies for diabetics, persons with sports injuries or wheelchair users.

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