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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.