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A Long Trip ~ University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf

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The diagnosis was clear. The recommendation of the American heart specialists was made accordingly.  The medical situation was special. Along with the mitral valve defect that needed to be repaired, the patient had a few complications that dramatically increased the risk of an open heart operation. His family did not have much time to make a decision.

American heart specialists said that only a minimally invasive approach for the repair of the mitral valve would work – an open-heart operation would have been too risky for the 80-year-old patient. But, even if the American cardiologists could have done the special mitral valve clipping because of their experience, this type of intervention had not been approved by local and state authorities.

Therefore, the American specialists contacted their German colleagues, as it was known that this type of medical intervention had been approved by the German FDA and that the German colleagues had used it on many patients already. They called Professor Olaf Franzen at the University Heart Center of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) to inquire whether he could accept the patient for the minimally invasive mitral valve clipping.

The University Heart Center

The UKE’s medical treatment, science and research have an excellent international reputation. As a result, international patients have been coming from all over the world for medical treatment by the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf’s renowned specialists and professors, such as Professor Franzen from the University Heart Center of the UKE.  Professor Franzen is, at the moment, the only cardiologist worldwide who can do this special minimally invasive operation for high-risk and normal patients.

When professor Franzen contacted the team at the International Office of the UKE he got an immediate answer: The International Office would organize everything for the patient and his family. Every aspect of a patient’s stay, starting from the first contact up to finishing a treatment with a final talk with the professor, is accompanied by the dedicated team of the International Office of the UKE, which is a specialized department, taking care of all administrative, financial and organizational issues before, during and after a patient’s stay, while paying special attention to his or her personal, cultural and travel-related needs. Among other things, the International Office provides a 24-hour interpreter service, a driver service, assistance in finding suitable accommodation for the patient’s family, etc.

Within 4 days everything necessary had been arranged. The patient received a proposal for the treatment plan and cost estimation, visa issues were dealt with, a flight and pick-up service from the airport directly to the clinic had been arranged.

For the Right Price

The patient’s family was delighted about the speed and service and quickly decided to go to Hamburg because the health of their father was deteriorating fast. The family was not only surprised by the highly professional support of the International Office of the UKE but also about the price of the treatment.

Prices of medical treatment in Germany are about 66% lower than in the States. The two existing price catalogues, one for inpatient stays and one for professorial consultation fees, are the same for all patients – no matter where the patient comes from.

When the patient arrived with his wife and 3 children he was in very poor medical condition and German specialists took him to the Intensive Care Unit immediately. Outside accommodation had been arranged for the family.

For foreign patients, the combination of state of the art medical equipment plus excellent treatment and service along with low and transparent prices is very attractive. The family of the American patient paid $45,000, including the mitral valve clip material price of $30,000. A similar minimal-invasive intervention would cost a lot more in England or Singapore. In the USA such an operation is priced at about $120,000.

Because medical staff and German doctors all speak English, communication was not a problem. The American patient was stabilized in the ICU and after 3 days Professor Franzen and his team did the minimally invasive surgery of mitral-valve- clipping. The patient only got a little cut in his groin-through which the specialist implanted the mitral valve in his heart.

The mitral-valve clipping was very successful. The first day after the operation the patient was supported by physiotherapists. His general condition and the condition of his heart improved immediately. The family of the patient said, “It is a miracle, our Dad got a new life.”

Indeed, after 10 days in hospital the patient was discharged. He walked out of the hospital accompanied by his wife and children. Professor Franzen and his team from the University Heart Center of the UKE and the team of the International Office of the UKE said goodbye to the whole family and confirmed that they had done the right thing in coming – they had saved the life of their Dad.

Stem Cell Treatments and Other Specialties

The UKE has renowned specialists, researchers and scientists in medical areas like prostate cancer, breast cancer, pancreas cancer, gastro-intestinal cancer, hepato-cellular cancer, heart diseases, bone marrow transplantation and organ transplantation.

Most of the patients find the International Office of the UKE via internet. An American patient from Andover, MA, was confronted with the diagnosis of MDS (myelo-dystrophic syndrome), a pre-phase blood cancer disease. As a computer specialist, he immediately scanned the net for the most famous researchers and specialists working on this special disease.

He ended up at the clinical department of stem-cell-transplantation of the UKE, which is headed by Professor Zander. The patient arranged everything with his health insurance and went to the UKE for treatment. He considered it his right to get the best possible medical care.

Patients and their families often contact the International Office of the UKE on very short notice. For these cases, the department has a 24-hour service for information and interpreting. All team members speak English and at least one other language like Arabic, Russian, Armenian, French, Bulgarian or Spanish.

Interpreters are always native speakers and have a medical background. Clinical professors of the UKE are happy to benefit from this service because it enables them to concentrate completely on their work with their patients.

Three weeks after the bone-marrow-transplantation, the patient came to the International Office of the UKE on his mountain bike and told the team there that he was feeling fine. Today, this young man lives a healthy life – thanks to the help of Professor Zander and his team.

International Patient Services

The first contact to the UKE is always the International Office. The last contact, receiving all medical data in the appropriate language and pictures on CD along with all financial work, also goes through the International Office. A driver takes the patient and his family to Hamburg airport, which is 10 minutes away from the hospital, in a Mercedes E or S-class.

The International Office also works with International health insurances, serving as their point of contact and taking care of all necessary paper work. Furthermore, the UKE works together with charity organizations to help children from poorer countries needing medical treatment.

The University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf is the largest hospital in Hamburg, Germany, incorporating 14 centers with 80 departments and more than 900 hospital beds. Founded in 1884, the UKE opened its ultramodern new building in January 2009 and thus combines tradition with state-of-the-art technology. We are currently the most modern hospital in Europe.

Diagnostics and Disease Management

One of the cornerstones of the UKE mission is to continue developing novel and improved diagnostic methods and procedures for disease management, in particular for complex and rare medical problems. Being a university hospital, we combine research, science and education with medical treatment. This combination is the basis of our success.

The UKE offers a wide spectrum of treatment options for patients. The range of medical care extends from general diagnostic services to highly specialized and complex treatments.
It is the only hospital in this region that can carry out many of these therapies and complicated surgical procedures, especially in the fields of cancer, transplantations, and heart diseases as well as orthopedics and trauma surgery. The UKE also has the world-leading clinical department for prostate cancer.

Each year, the medical center treats more than 50,000 in- patients, 70,000 out-patients and 50,000 emergency patients. The German health care system is very traditional, open to everybody, and its quality is very high. Germans think that medical treatment is a human right and therefore, free access to necessary medical treatment is defined by German law.

Almost everybody in Germany is health insured and Germans or people who permanently live in Germany who cannot afford to pay health insurance will get their treatment paid by the State.

Leonore Boscher was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1963. She worked as an operating theatre nurse before moving to Boeblingen, Germany in 1985 for a position in the marketing department of Hewlett-Packard Medical Electronics.

From 1999-2003 she was the PA of the CEO of the University Medical Center Tuebingen. Her next career step took her to Hamburg, where she worked as the managing director of the surgical center of the University Medical Center Hamburg- Eppendorf for two years.

Since 2006 she has been successfully managing the International Office of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.  She is also currently writing her PhD thesis on the Principle Agent Theory – the Role of Clinical Directors in the Faculty of Medicine. She can be reached at the following email addresses: and

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