umlaut Bernd Valentin


'Digitalisation saves lives'

The digital emergency rescue chain promises speed, safety and transparency. A conversation with Bernd Valentin, Managing Director of umlaut's telehealthcare division.

Mr Valentin, as a practising emergency call-out doctor, you must have been called out to countless emergencies. How often would you rather have dealt with the cases on the phone?

Often. This did indeed include a number of call-outs to retirement homes. The bottom line is that the skills of a paramedic with the assistance of digital solutions, such as the remote emergency doctor, would have been perfectly adequate to provide good care. Of course, there are sometimes also serious emergencies in retirement homes. Yet an emergency call-out doctor is only actually needed in 15 percent of all the cases they are called out to. In many situations, qualified paramedics are quite capable of handling the case without the need for a emergency call-out doctor to be there in person.

... and if not?

Then, in the best-case scenario, our emergency call-out doctor will be there with them in the ambulance as a digital option. The vehicle will be equipped with an extensive range of remote call technology which can help the paramedics to provide more effective treatment when they are faced with more serious cases. Unfortunate situations can arise, for example if the control centre sends an emergency doctor on call via emergency helicopter or in a separate emergency vehicle, who is then unable to attend a local resuscitation a short time later. In such cases, our products represent an additional resource.

Secure the scene of the accident – provide first aid – wait for the emergency services. These are tried and trusted principles. What can umlaut telehealthcare do in addition to this?

umlaut telehealthcare GmbH offers solutions along the entire emergency service chain. Even in regions with good transport connections, it can take six or seven minutes before an ambulance arrives. In the case of a cardiac arrest, a patient can expect to suffer neural damage after just three minutes if they are not given oxygen. Our product “Corhelper” is an app which checks the availability of trained first-aiders in real time and helps to get them to the scene in less than three minutes. Here too, the first-aider also has the option of calling the remote emergency doctor to the scene at the press of the button.

The rescue has been a success! The patient is breathing again. What now?

In parallel to the actual rescue, the emergency service personnel at the scene, the remote emergency doctor or the control centre create a set of records which is forwarded to the receiving hospital via our "Vetora" service. A transparent picture of the emergency is therefore created to show the entire rescue operation, and this can be used by everyone along the decision-making chain, even during cost calculation.

So is the digital emergency rescue chain a bit like a puzzle made up of lots of interlocking tools?

Yes. Even individual pieces of this network can help to make the rescue operation more effective. Purchasing departments issue contracts, on the one hand, for the technical equipment and the provision of tools and, on the other, for the use of the remote emergency doctor in the remote emergency doctor control centre, by all areas, around the clock.

So why don't all purchasers book the entire package?

Responsibility for demand planning for the emergency rescue services lies with the municipal authorities. As a rule, purchasers determine their requirements on the basis of the call-outs in the previous year. Yet many options are severely neglected, such as the use of individual items of rescue or life-saving equipment to work together across municipal boundaries. Thinking in terms of networks not only saves money but also shortens the treatment-free interval for the emergency patient and saves lives.

How can things be improved?

With our research project "preRESC", we can make a prognosis of emergency cases before they actually happen. To do this, we use demographic data to predict the way a region will develop in structural terms. This may involve planned construction projects, demographic change through migration away from rural areas or an increase in population. Many further parameters and influencing factors, such as weather data, volume of traffic or current news events are also incorporated, thereby making it possible to achieve more precise demand planning or even go as far as working in real time. This data can provide us with orientation with regard to the relevant components of emergency rescue equipment.

Nonetheless, accidents do happen across the whole of Germany, in neighbouring countries and across the world – as we know from watching the news. As a remote emergency doctor, do you ever actually get a break?

Our remote emergency doctor is theoretically independent of space and time. Yet in German-speaking countries, the bureaucratic hurdles are indeed high. That's we are initially focusing on this area within umlaut telehealthcare GmbH. Far too few people have any idea of the current status of telemedicine or know that it really can save lives, particularly in regions with weak infrastructure and where emergency services are understaffed.

Our strength lies in networking remote emergency doctor locations using a supra-regional approach. We ensure that high quality standards are maintained nationwide, both in technical terms and in terms of personnel, with support around the clock provided by the supervision of our remote emergency doctor and remote emergency doctor system.

It seems as though people have finally internalised the idea of leaving an emergency lane on the motorway. How are things going when it comes to telemedicine?

We focus on giving clear messages. With more than 30,000 standard care call-outs, our service is like the original. We don't see our system as purely a technical one. At umlaut we put our faith in experts from the necessary peripheral areas, such as communications, automotive, health and AI. By doing so, we can ensure that our tools can be used even under difficult conditions and, above all, this means we can continue to develop them, keeping the users in mind, in a way that will be decisive for the future.

Our initial focus is on addressing the users, as they are the ones who have to work with our products. This means paramedics, emergency medical technicians, critical care paramedics in ambulances, emergency call-out doctors and remote emergency doctors, as well as dispatchers in the control centres. We see them as multipliers who validate our products – their joint efforts increase the quality of emergency rescue for patients.

Many thanks for talking to us.