Rhineland ready for medical tourists

With 25,000 beds across 90 clinics, North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany has more treatment capacity than anywhere else in the country, and is ready with halal food, on-hand translators and concierge services
A view of Düsseldorf Old Town from the executive suite of Briedenbacher Hof

Germany continues to enjoy the steadfast reputation of being a leader in medical tourism. It already attracts a significant number of Arab patients from the Middle East such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.

North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) region, in particular, is gaining popularity not only as a business and holiday hub but increasingly as a medical tourism destination. With a focus on Düsseldorf, Cologne and Bonn, the NRW region attracts a fifth of the international patients headed towards Germany, according to figures released by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis).

A 2010 research paper, issued by Bonn-Rhine-Sieg University of Applied Sciences revealed that the NRW region ranked third among German states in attracting Arab patients from the Middle East, with Düsseldorf being a favourite destination.
The treatment capacity of the NRW region is higher than other regions in Germany, with 25,000 beds in 90 clinics. 

In 2010, the Health Region Cologne Bonn and Bonn-Rhine-Sieg University of Applied Sciences initialised a project called ‘Health Destination Rhineland.’ The goal of the project is to position the NRW region as the prime location for top-notch treatments for diabetes and obesity in addition to other specialist areas such as cardiology, oncology, ophthalmology as well as rehabilitation.

Already, the NRW region boasts the highest concentration of prominent pharmaceutical and biotechnology players as well as life science research and development facilities in Germany. One of these ‘BioRegions’ in the NRW region, called BioRiver-LifeScience, is collaborating with the Health Region Cologne Bonn to ensure a continual knowledge transfer between hospitals and top-notch German universities so that patients get the best specialist treatment possible.

Maria Amaral

The University Hospital Düsseldorf is another hospital in the NRW region that ensures there is an intimate integration of optimal patient care, clinical research and medical training available under one roof. In West German Diabetes and Health Centre, Düsseldorf, in addition to treating patients with diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure in-house, the team use telemedicine to monitor blood tests and deliver therapy adjustments after the patients return home to the Middle East, thus saving them additional trips to the health centre.

Meanwhile, university hospitals and doctors involved in the Cologne-Bonn Centre for Integrated Oncology Association work closely on the latest treatment processes of cancer. Many oncologists use ‘Cyberknife,’ an appealing state-of-the-art non-invasive alternative to traditional radiation surgery that targets the radiation beams on the tumour itself, thus saving surrounding healthy tissue. 

Maria Amaral, director, Marketing & Sales Office Gulf Countries, German National Tourist Office, Dubai, says, “The medical system in Germany is robustly structured and the doctors well-trained, which is why Arab patients from the Middle East countries continue to visit Germany for treatment. The confidence that the doctors have built in Arab patients make Germany quite irresistible for them to travel there for specialist treatments that are not offered here.”

As Arab patients mostly travel with their family members to NRW, the health-care industry needs to work seamlessly with the luxury hospitality industry. “For Arab patients seeking treatment in Germany, it will always be a combination of treatment for them, and a holiday for their families who accompany them but stay at luxury hotels,” Amaral points out. “Taking into consideration the cultural traditions of the travellers, these institutions provide halal food, ensure that Arabic translation services are available, and offer concierge services to the family members while the patient is recuperating.”

Düsseldorf’s Briedenbacher Hof, a Capella hotel, is a prime example of a hotel that offers luxurious suites that connect into larger units if required, for a maximum degree of privacy and comfort of the families. Not only do they have Arabic speaking staff, they are also connected to two clinics, Preventicum and Clinic of Medical Experts. Similarly, Le Méridien Dom Hotel in Cologne and Kameha Grand Bonn has built strong networks with clinics in those cities.

For a spot of culture and high fashion delight, family members can shop at Armani or Prada at Düsseldorf’s often sought designer fashion boulevard called Königsallee, visit Cologne’s Chocolate Museum, enjoy Bonn’s Rehnaue Leisure Park’s ‘Rhine in Flames’ festival of fireworks and more. With non-stop flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Düsseldorf and excellent onward connections to Cologne and Bonn, life is made easier for Arab patients who choose the NRW region for specialist treatment.

“The reliability of doctors and the strong medical infrastructure in Germany will never change and the Arab patients will continue to trust the medical system and travel there for treatments,” Amaral concludes.

By Jan D’Sa