Medical Toursim German - Berlin

World-class hospitals for international patients

In the second part of our focus on German hospitals and medical tourism – part 1 was published in the Jan-Feb 2017 issue of Middle East Health – we focus on Berlin.

Berlin, the capital of Germany, is an historic, vibrant and culturally rich city. Lacking in natural resources, throughout its history Berliners have had to rely on their intellect and ingenuity to prosper in the world. In this, Berlin has been very successful and the city continues to attract the top brains in various fields, not least in healthcare and the life sciences. This is evidenced by a number of world-leading science research clusters on the outskirts of the city and several world-class hospitals, such as Charité International, Vivantes International Medicine, the German Heart Institute Berlin, the Meoclinic and Helios Healthcare International. Put this altogether and it becomes clear why the city is now one of the major centres in the world for medical tourism.

Every year between 17,000-20,000 international patients travel to Berlin for inpatient and outpatient treatment. And when it comes to complex medical cases, these hospitals provide the most advanced treatment available in cardiology, oncology, endocrinology andmany other medical specialties, at rates that are significantly less than those in the United States for equivalent procedures.

We thank VisitBerlin for their support in helping to arrange our visits to some of the city’s leading hospitals and the Ritz- Carlton Berlin for accommodating us during our stay in the city.

VisitBerlin has a website specifically for international patients seeking healthcare in the city: If you are considering seeking healthcare in the city – this is a good place to start.

Vivantes International
Vivantes is the largest governmental hospital group in Germany with nine hospitals in Berlin and others in cities across the country. The group’s advanced facilities in Berlin make it a popular destination for international patients, whether they seek a simple preventive healthcare check-up or require complex surgery.

In Berlin we visited two of their hospitals – Vivantes Spandau Hospital and Vivantes Humboldt Hospital.

The hospital group offers a complete spectrum of medical specialties, from cardiology, endocrinology and neurology to paediatrics, oncology, urology, robotic surgery and more.

“We have our own laboratory, and our own catering company for patient food,” Nizar Maroouf, Vice Director Vivantes International Medicine, explained, as an indicator of the large size of the group.

“Vivantes has more than 40 highly specialised Centers of Excellence, including those for Breast, Cochlear Implant, Minimally Invasive Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Obesity and Obstetrics,” he added.

“The Cochlear Implant Center is one of the biggest in Germany. Many patients from the Arab world come here for treatment,” he said.

We spoke to Dr Colin Krüger, Division of Minimally Invasive Surgery and head of the Robotic Surgery unit.

The unit uses Da Vinci robots. The surgery is done laparoscopically and while the surgeon sits at the robot console in a room adjacent to the OR enabling the operating of the robot outside of the sterile field of the OR. Inside the OR a scrub nurse is with patient.

“It is a single-surgeon procedure,” Dr Krüger explained. Only one surgeon is required to manipulate the robot.

Using the robot has significant advantages. “You view the site of operation in 3D with 10 times magnification, making it excellent for oncologic procedures,” he said. “Lymph node resection is increased by around 25% and there is significant reduction in blood loss compared to other forms of surgery.”

Vivantes is a Reference Centre for the Da Vinci robot. It is one of only three training centres in Europe and surgeons come from across the continent to learn how to use the robot.

More than 3 million procedures have been done using these robots around the world.

“The big market is for urological procedures, with 80% of the prostate cancer cases done robotically. There is growing use of it in general surgery – specifically for the big oncologic procedures, such as pancreatic cancer surgery or oesophageal cancer, with significantly decreased morbidity as it is done laparoscopically with the robot.

“We can see better, prep better and reconstruct better as we suture intracorporeally, which is very hard in laparoscopic surgery. This is a big technological step forward,” he said.

Dr Krüger summarized what Vivantes offers with robotic surgery: “We have a focus on upper GI (gastrointestinal) surgery. Initially, we started with colorectal surgery, but there wasn’t much improvement in outcome for this surgery compared to the laparoscopic procedure, so we changed to focus on upper GI surgery especially for gastric cancer, oesophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer.

“We also do all the endocrine surgery procedures with the robot.”

Vivantes sees many international patients for bariatric surgery to reduce weight. Around 60% of international patientscome to Vivantes for revision surgery, following bariatric surgeries that have gone wrong.

“Severe obesity is increasing in adults and children. It shortens lives due to concomitant disease by an average of 11 years for men and eight years for women,” explained Prof Dr Volker Lange, Director of the Department of Obesity and Metabolic Surgery at Vivantes Center.

He noted that bariatric surgery is the only durable and effective treatment of obesity – that is obesity grade 2 or severe obesity (BMI of 30-39.9) and grade 3 or morbid obesity (BMI greater than or equal to 40).

“It is not superficial plastic surgery that only reduces abdominal fat. Bariatric surgery not only reduces weight, but improves and resolves concomitant diseases, such as diabetes, dyslipidaemia and hypertension, which together are known as ‘metabolic syndrome’. So, this surgery is now being referred to as ‘metabolic surgery’,” Dr Lange said.

Common procedures are the gastric bypass – the gold standard. However, a newer procedure gaining popularity is the sleeve gastrectomy, but data on this only goes back 10 years, so the jury is still out on long-term effectiveness of this procedure, Dr Volker said.

“The operation takes about one hour. It is all done laparoscopically,” he said.

“We have done 4500 operations, the highest in Germany. Surgical complications at Vivantes are very low, at around 2.5%,” he added.

Dr Lange explained that there is a procedure that should be followed when offering this type of surgery.

“Patients are required to learn how to eat correctly before the operation and after care is required for a short while following surgery.

“Plastic surgery is often necessary for body contouring after bariatric surgery.”

Generally, the patient stays as an inpatient for 3 days following bariatric surgery and Vivantes recommends that the patient stays a further 10 days as an outpatient in the city for follow-up checks.

Middle East Health also spoke to Prof Dr Ernst Späth-Schwalbe, Director of the Department of Hematology, Oncology, Gastroenterology and Palliative Medicine. He gave us a detailed presentation on the latest developments in treatment for oncological diseases, including immunotherapy.

Prof Dr Jörg Wissel, Director of the Center for Neurological Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy, spoke to us about Vivantes’ expertise in this field and this was followed by a tour of Vivantes Spandau Hospital’s state-of-the-art Center for Neuro- Rehabilitation.

Taking in the breadth of Vivantes Group and the many specialties they cover with some of the world’s leading doctors and surgeons, this group deserves serious consideration when looking at international treatment options.




PGD International

Paul Gerhardt Diakonie (PGD) has six hospitals in Berlin.

Their International Patient Office works with patients from the Far East, Middle East, Russia, Europe and the Americas.

“We have relationships with embassies to treat their citizens and their military personnel,” explained Soumeya Meraghni, the manager of the Arab Department in the International Patient Office of PGD.

PGD also works with several international health insurance companies to facilitate payment.

PGD offers a wide spectrum of specialties with an interdisciplinary approach, including: spinal surgery, internal medicine, general surgery, gynaecology, paediatrics, paediatric orthopaedics, centres for breast and bowel cancer, plastic aesthetic surgery, orthopaedics, endocrinology, foot and hand surgery, neurosurgery and treatments of the thyroid gland.

“We treat patients from around the world and see many patients from the GCC, especially Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain,” explained Meraghni.

“About 80% of our international patients are Arabic,” said Meraghni.

Beside regular consultation and treatment, PGD offers a complete concierge service for international patients – including VIP airport transfers, visa assistance, VIP catering and accommodation for patients and accompanying relatives, etc.

“We also provide a dedicated assistant who acts as translator as well as providing many other services to the patient, such as serving food.

Treatment is provided only by the head of department.

“We also offer a VIP section with luxury accommodation, which is often used by our patients from the GCC. In most cases, international patients are accommodated in attractive single rooms with internet access, their home TV programs and magazines in their native language. Our philosophy is to make patients feel at home – which is also an important part of their therapy.”

PGD also treats some patients for free on humanitarian grounds – when certain international patients are unable to afford it and their treatment can’t be provided in their home country.


The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin

The Middle East Health journalists were fortunate to be accommodated at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Berlin during their stay in city. The hotel is situated on Potsdamer Platz, a famous landmark square in the heart of the city, and forms an integral part of the elegant Beisheim- Center, adjacent to Berlin’s largest park, the Tiergarten. The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin resembles the Art Déco high-rise buildings of New York and Chicago in the 1920s. The 5-star hotel pays homage to the German empire style with its luxurious, classical interior creating the atmosphere of a grand hotel. It was inspired by the Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841), who has like no other formed the architecture of the old and new capital.

The hotel has 303 guestrooms in various categories: 225 Deluxe Rooms; 40 Suites; 37 Club Rooms and; 1 Apartment.

International patients
The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin is the accommodation of choice selected by Arabic families accompanying a patient who has come to Berlin for medical treatment. These families often choose the luxury suites of the Ritz-Carlton, which are equipped for long-term guests.

The hotel has all the amenities you would expect from a 5-star hotel, including fine restaurants, trendy bars, luxurious lounges, as well as fitness, recreation and beauty amenities.

For guests from the Middle East, the hotel provides an Oriental ambience including Qur’an and prayer rug. Special attention is given to the needs and wishes of guests travelling for medical reasons.

The special services for Arabicspeaking guests of the hotel include numerous Arabic TV channels and daily Arabic newspapers.

“For our guests from the Middle East, religion and faith play an important role in their lives,” explained Robert Petrovi, General Manager at the Ritz-Carlton, Berlin. “With our services, we offer them a home away from home, enabling themto enjoy the city of Berlin to the full.”

Arabic food is served on request in the Brasserie Desbrosses, as well as in the exclusive Club Lounge on the 10th floor of the hotel. With the hotel’s limousine service, guests can also reach two of the most beautiful mosques in the city.

The hotel has several unique offerings. For example, to accommodate the needs The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin of hotel guests with specific allergies, the Ritz-Carlton has allocated two rooms which are certified as environmentally free of products and substances which can provoke health-related problems. From special pillows to carpet free flooring, these rooms reflect the concerns of Ritz- Carlton for the comfort and wellbeing of all its guests.

Date of upload: 14th Mar 2017

                                               Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved.