Althea installs ‘first of its kind’ Cone Beam CT Scanner at University Hospitals of Leicester

The world’s newest head & neck cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scanner, featuring patented Metal Artefact Reduction, a 120kV generator and the very latest advances in radiographer assistance, has been installed at Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI).

Installation of the Carestream CS 9600 CBCT at LRI was facilitated by their long-term vendor-independent managed service provider Althea, working in partnership with Hulbert Dental ICT – UK sector specialist for Carestream Dental.

LRI is the first UK hospital to introduce the technology after being chosen as the only site worldwide, to undertake clinical verification of this new CBCT platform, specifically targeted around medical sector requirements.

As an important evolution on established dental CBCT systems, the CS 9600 allows clinicians to scan more than just teeth or MaxFacs regions, adding approval for Cervical Spine and Scaphoid imaging. Output images are automatically transferred to PACS along with user-defined recons, all in DiCOM format. The CS 9600 can also perform straightforward 2D OrthoPanTomograms and it even remembers the individual patient demographics, further improving workflow for follow-up imaging.

The CS 9600 Cone Beam CT scanner has similar geometry and footprint to an OPT machine, maximising the use of increasingly limited real-estate. For many images the radiation dose to the patient is a fraction of that of a multi-slice CT scanner and it is quicker to use, reducing the patient visit from as much as 15 minutes, to around 5 minutes in total.

LRI was chosen specifically to put the machine through its paces in performing large volume CT scans of the Sinuses, Temporal bones and Skull Base. The scanner’s minimum voxel size of 75 microns gives these examinations superb image resolution. The new scanner will be used in the diagnosis and planning of Oral and ENT surgery, as well as the re-direction of a sizable proportion of its Sinus and Temporal Bone imaging from a busy conventional CT service, resulting in a Cost Improvement Plan with significant savings over the financial year.

Colin Ross, Radiology Site Manager, said “Before the CS9600, we were using the CS9300. We really liked the CS9300, but the CS9600 has many advantages over it. The CS9600 is very easy to use with patient positioning being particularly intuitive. The CS9600 also has a maximum KvP of 120 rather than 90 and offers significantly larger Fields Of View.”

Service Medical Lead Dr Ram Vaidhyanth, said “The high-resolution mode combined with small field of view is ideal for temporal bone imaging. Metal artefact reduction algorithm is very useful in both dental and sinus imaging.”

Tony Hulbert, Director at HULBERT Dental ICT, commented on the experience: “It has been a great pleasure to work with the team at LRI throughout the validation process, with much credit due to the radiographers and radiologists in Balmoral Xray. It is thanks to their positive and valuable feedback, that we take the CS 9600 forward with great confidence in what could well be a tipping-point in the application of CBCT technology.”

Althea is the world’s largest, vendor-independent managed service and maintenance provider for the acute healthcare sector. The company delivers a Managed Equipment Service (MES) to UK and Ireland hospitals such as the University Hospitals of Leicester update and improve their technology whilst managing the day-to-day concerns of running a department. This includes maintenance and breakdowns and on-going replacements throughout the term of the contract.

David Rolfe, UK&I Chief Executive Officer, added “We spend a huge amount of time with clinicians at LGH to understand how their department works, what their clinicians require, the procedures they undertake and what all of this means for the future. Being entirely vendor-independent ensures Althea is not tied to any one manufacturer and can offer hospitals the most efficient solution for their clinical needs.”

STUDY EVENING TO BE HELD:
University Hospitals of Leicester will be holding a free study evening on Wednesday 10th April from 4 to 7pm. Topics include advances in Cone Beam CT, improvements in image quality and diagnosis, and tips for writing the business case for procurement of a Cone Beam CT. For a place, please email: colin.ross@uhl-tr.nhs.uk

Pictured left to right: Mike Sinkala (Reporting Radiographer), Denise Gill (Superintendant Radiographer), Colin Ross (Site Manager LRI), Dr Ram Vaidhyanath (Consultant Radiologists), Francesca Evans (Chief Technologist, Althea) & Tony Hulbert (Hulbert Dental ICT)

Althea and Samsung Collaborate to Benefit X-ray Services in Leicester

Althea has delivered state-of-the-art imaging systems to Leicester General Hospital (LGH), through their long-term vendor-independent managed service.

The managed service includes a guaranteed planned capital replacement programme, which covers all of the hospitals plain X-ray rooms.

As part of this agreement, Althea has now installed the 2nd of the Samsung GC85 DR imaging systems on time and on budget. All equipment installations are planned, and project managed by Althea’s Implementation & Technology experts. LGH chose the new Samsung GC85 after reviewing Althea’s summary of all available systems on the market.

The GC85 is a world beating, fully automated, digital suite designed to reduce physical stress on users, increase patient throughput and to deliver superb quality images.

The new equipment features Samsung’s intuitive 3 step workflow which takes the user easily through worklist, acquisition and review. LGH will be able to share their lightweight detectors across all the departments Samsung equipment, adding greater flexibility and reducing costs. The pioneering detectors offer a high DQE, so low dose, but still maintain the ability to deliver the highest quality images.

Andy Mear, Plain Film Superintendent, says “The installation of our second Samsung room went very smoothly and we have seen huge benefits to our patients from the transition to DR which was superbly supported by Althea and the MIS applications team. This room significantly benefits the staff due to the reduced physical effort required to operate the equipment.“​​

Integrated Technology and Smart Innovation

With the NHS facing a growing financial crisis, Althea has once again attracted press attention for the innovative cost-saving measures it offers hospitals.

David Rolfe, CEO of Althea UK & Ireland, has been interviewed by The Clinical Services Journal (CSJ) to discuss how Althea is helping hospitals make significant cash and efficiency savings each year.

CSJ, a major UK-based monthly magazine for healthcare professionals, talks about how the rising demand for care from a growing and ageing population has left many UK hospitals strapped for cash.

The general consensus is that the NHS needs more money, and a recent report produced by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests this figure is an extra £50 billion a year above inflation by 2030 and a further £25 bn a year in productivity savings.

As a pioneering global organisation, Althea is driven by a commitment to provide better healthcare and is focused on improving patient outcomes. This is achieved by offering NHS trusts and private hospitals a range of technology solutions such as managed services, multi-vendor maintenance, clinical consumables management, and refurbished equipment sales/rentals.

“Althea was created when eight leading service providers, each with a long-established track record in their respective markets, joined forces,” said David.

“From the outset, the vision was to create the world’s first large-scale, vendor-independent provider and give hospitals a choice when it comes to the selection, installation and maintenance of equipment. Being entirely vendor-independent ensures that the company is not tied to any one manufacturer so that we can offer hospitals the most appropriate solution for their clinical needs.”

Today, Althea is a one-stop shop that aims to offer hospitals a high-quality, cost-effective alternative to original equipment manufacturers. With close to 3000 staff worldwide, the organisation is said to be the largest independent provider of medical equipment services, with 1.4 million medical devices under management in more than 1700 healthcare facilities.

The article spotlights on the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL), one of the biggest and busiest NHS trusts in the country, to highlight how they are benefiting from Althea’s breadth of services.

“Our approach is to help them make direct savings by converting the lifetime variable costs of managing their critical equipment into efficient and predictable operational costs,” said David.

“We have the healthcare knowledge, clinical expertise and technical excellence to understand the market and to offer healthcare providers industry-leading services that deliver performance improvements.”

Click here to read the full article.

Asia watches Althea’s equipment in action

Althea were delighted to support Leicester’s Hospitals’ cardiologists and cardiac surgeons perform a live Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) procedure to colleagues across Asia.

The procedure, which was carried out using an array of Althea’s CT, MRI and ultrasound scanners, was transmitted live from the cardiac catheter lab at Glenfield Hospital. It was watched by 21,295 international health professionals from 36 countries as part of the 29th Great Wall International Congress of Cardiology and Asia Pacific Structural Symposium and China Structure Week.

Thanks to the internet, IT and the team working earlier than usual the procedure was performed live from 5am UK time. It was the first time a transmission was purely delivered online. Previously, satellite has been relied upon which is not as seamless.

The world-recognised TAVI procedure allows heart valves to be implanted using a catheter. The procedure is minimally invasive and means patients, particularly the elderly, do not have to undergo open-heart surgery.

Before the procedure the patient requires either a CT scan or an ultrasound to confirm the size of the aortic root and the degree of classification and competency of the valve.

Althea also procured the correct size of valve required for the procedure, specific to the patient’s anatomical specification.

Ruben Olivier explains: “Althea procured the item via the bespoke althea P2P product catalogue system and the supplied it in time for the scheduled procedure. We were also on hand to collect the item from the hospital delivery point to check when it arrived at the hospital to confirm it had arrived undamaged.”

“As part of our role we recorded the serial number and the device is tracked and traced within the Althea inventory management system. Once the valve is implanted, it is scanned with our point of care scanners and recorded against the patient ID number. This follows the NHS recommended Scan4Safety protocol.This allows for tracking the valve in the event of a MHRA recall or field safety notification.”

After the implant, the patient will undergo a secondary scan to assess the position of the valve to confirm the successful outcome of the procedure.

Althea have a monthly clinical governance meeting where the implanted items are monitored, and the continuous safety and quality of the implant is recorded.

Blog: David Rolfe on Althea becoming world’s largest, independent managed service healthcare provider

“It’s an honour to announce that following the recent acquisition and integration of TBS, Althea has now become the world’s largest, independent managed service provider for the acute healthcare sector.

TBS are a world-leading biomedical and endoscopy company, so the merger is an extremely important step for us strategically.  We can now offer a wider range of services in biomed, endoscopy and in diagnostic imaging across all brands and modalities.

From the outset, Althea’s vision was to create the world’s first large-scale vendor-independent service provider.  The company is made up of over 3000 staff with the healthcare knowledge, clinical expertise, and technical excellence to understand the market and to offer healthcare providers industry-leading services that deliver performance improvements.  The result is a one-stop shop that offers hospitals a high-quality, independent, cost-effective alternative.

We offer hospitals efficiency and flexibility.  We can save them money by doing things in a smarter, more innovative way.  We are customer-orienteered and strive to take that extra step, each and every time. For example, we offer an out-of-hours service as standard.  We don’t disrupt clinical services, rather we free-up clinical time so that it can remain focused on patient care.

Being independent is vital as it means we are not tied to any one manufacturer or supplier and can offer all our customers the most efficient solution for their clinical needs.  This includes integrating our unique consumables management service which ensures life-changing procedures are supported by the most clinically-appropriate consumables in the right place, at the right time.

There is no doubt at all that we are disrupting the market for maintenance and managed services, and the original equipment manufacturers who once dominated the market have a good reason to be worried.  For the first time there is a large, innovative company that is safe and reliable.  We have an exciting twelve months ahead of us and I am excited for the future.”

David Rolfe, CEO of Althea UK & Ireland

Althea’s biomed merger ensures position as world’s largest independent hospital service provider

Althea is the world’s largest, vendor-independent managed service and maintenance provider for the acute healthcare sector, following the recent acquisition and integration of the TBS Group.

In the UK and Ireland, the healthcare service company offers NHS and private hospitals a range of technology solutions including managed services, multi-vendor maintenance, integrated clinical consumables management as well as equipment sales and rentals.

The integration of TBS GB means that Althea can now add endoscopy to complement its existing expertise in biomed and diagnostic imaging equipment.  The company now offers a breadth and quality of service that no-one else in the market can match.

David Rolfe, UK&I Chief Executive Officer comments: “TBS is a world-leading biomedical and endoscopy company, so the merger is an extremely important step for us strategically.  Integrating these services into our extensive portfolio means we are now able to offer a wider range of services than any other provider.”

Althea was originally created when seven leading service providers, each with a long-established track record in their respective markets, joined forces.

From the outset, their vision was to create the world’s first large-scale vendor-independent provider and give hospitals a choice when it comes to the selection, installation and maintenance of equipment.

Being entirely vendor-independent ensures Althea is not tied to any one manufacturer and can offer hospitals the most efficient solution for their clinical needs.

Today, the company is a one-stop shop that offers hospitals a high-quality, cost-effective alternative to original equipment manufacturers.  Althea’s in-house engineers maintain equipment directly to the highest standards underpinned by ISO-certified quality management systems.

David added: “We offer hospitals efficiency and flexibility. We have the healthcare knowledge, clinical expertise, and technical excellence to offer healthcare providers industry-leading services that deliver efficiency savings and performance improvements.  Our mission is to save our customers money by doing things in a smarter, more innovative way.”

Althea changes UK market as the new world-class independent provider

Signalling the most historic change in the medical equipment service industry since the introduction of vendor-independence, eight leading service providers have unified operations under a single brand – Althea. This combination of independent service companies, including Asteral, MESA, and TBS, has significantly increased the choice hospitals now have when they procure equipment and maintenance.

Focused on efficient solutions and reducing whole-life costs, Althea offers an alternative to the traditional original equipment manufacturers. Entirely vendor-independent, Althea’s services cover all hospital areas – from radiology to radiotherapy, from cardiology to biomed.

Althea’s in-house engineers maintain equipment directly to the highest standards underpinned by ISO-certified quality assurance.

With close to 3,000 staff worldwide, Althea is now the largest independent provider of medical equipment services with 1.4 million medical devices under management in more than 1,700 healthcare facilities. Althea focuses on its breadth and quality of service, freeing its customers to focus on patient care.

In the UK & Ireland, Althea offers sustainable healthcare technology solutions including:

  • Diagnostic imaging maintenance
  • Endoscopy maintenance
  • Biomed maintenance and training services
  • Managed services in radiology, cardiology, radiotherapy, endoscopy and biomed
  • Clinical consumable management service
  • Rental of mobile scanners, ultrasounds and endoscopes
  • Pre-owned equipment – buying and selling
  • Ultrasound probe and MR coil evaluation/repair

Althea’s engineers, technicians, and customer service specialists already support over 300 hospitals deliver financial savings and operational efficiencies, whilst making a positive difference to patient experience.

The companies that have been bought together by Althea are:

  • Asteral – managed service provider including integrated cardiology and interventional radiology clinical consumables management
  • MESA, MVS, Spintech, and Sigil – diagnostic imaging multi-vendor maintenance service providers
  • TBS and Higèa – biomed multi-vendor service providers
  • Ed Sloan & Associates – refurbished imaging equipment, spare parts, and engineer training.

Within the new group, an unparalleled network of diagnostic imaging Centres of Excellence have been established in Reading (UK), Milan (Italy), Mikołów (Poland), and Nashville (US) providing Althea with ISO13485-accredited multi-vendor engineer training and spare parts testing facilities.

David Rolfe, UK&I CEO comments:  “Asteral, MESA, and TBS have been pioneering in the UK & Ireland for over 15 years.  Now, as Althea, we have the capability and infrastructure to support clinical teams across all hospital departments – from cardiology to endoscopy, from an infusion pump to an MR scanner.  We use our scale and experience to leverage and deliver high-quality medical equipment, maintenance and clinical consumables in order to optimise patient outcomes, while providing the best possible value at all times.”

Alessandro Dogliani, Group CEO of Althea comments:  “We are at a tipping-point in our industry. There is now so much complex medical equipment in service in hospitals, clinics and health centres that their need for an independent technology partner is essential.  We have launched a company that brings together pioneers and experts from across the industry. Althea can offer a breadth and quality of service that no-one else in our market can match.  We are committed to working with customers to improve healthcare services.”

Leicester’s new hybrid theatre and vascular move

Leicester’s Hospitals vascular service has successfully completed its integration onto one site with the re-location of some services from the Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) to the Glenfield Hospital.  The departmental move is part of a £13.2m major equipment upgrade provided through the Trust’s vendor-independent managed service contract.

The project formed part of a development plan that includes a state-of-the-art hybrid theatre facility that has been purpose built as well as the re-location of a number of items of diagnostic imaging equipment.  The hybrid theatre consists of three ultramodern pieces of equipment provided on a vendor-neutral basis with the support, knowledge and expertise of Althea’s Implementation and Technology team: a Siemens Axiom Artis Zeego; a GE Healthcare MacLab; and a Medrad Mark 7 Arterion injector.  The new equipment has enhanced the department’s ability to undertake increasingly complex activity, has improved patient pathways and reduced clinical risk.  Ultimately the project has assisted the clinical team provide the most comprehensive integrated vascular, cardiology and cardiac surgery services required to provide the best possible care to patients who are suffering with cardiovascular illnesses.  Althea provided complete project support for the redesign of the department, from design, through build, to equipment installation.

Vascular disease is a class of diseases of the blood vessels – the arteries and veins of the circulatory system of the body.  It is a subgroup of cardiovascular disease.  Disorders in this vast network of blood vessels can cause a range of health problems which can be severe and often fatal, which is why it is important for the hospitals to have the most advanced technology available.  Althea’s vendor-independence allowed Leicester’s Hospitals to exploit the mix of different systems available and identify the best fit for its patient needs.

Mark McCarthy, Consultant Vascular Surgeon and Head of Service at the Trust, explains: “This new investment in a hybrid theatre will enhance the care given to patients and will allow treatment of complex cardiovascular disease to be undertaken in a state-of-the-art operating theatre.”

Improving patient experience with these advancements in technology, the new hybrid theatre facility also offers new training opportunities to the staff in the hospital, in particular for the Imaging Team, as this is the first hybrid imaging equipment within Leicester’s Hospitals.

The new angiography suite has been designed to provide a tailor-made environment for the treatment and imaging of vascular patients. The suite, which includes a Mallinckrodt Angiomat Illumena and a Toshiba Infinix, both transferred from LRI, has its own day-case unit which enables the Imaging Team to provide more patient-centred care.  The suite is also located close to the vascular ward which will contribute towards improved collaboration with the Imaging Team.  The Imaging Team have also been working on various projects to improve documentation and patient preparation to in turn improve patient flow.

The new vascular studies unit is based on Level 1 and offers a dedicated patient reception, waiting area and two comfortable and spacious scanning rooms.  A GE Logiq S8 and a GE Logiq E9 were both relocated from LRI.  The units are located adjacent to the vascular ward, angiography suite and MDT room, enabling rapid access for the assessment of vascular in-patients as well as patients admitted to the unit.  Overall, the move will improve work flow and facilitate collaborative working between departments involved in the care of vascular and cardiovascular patients.

Althea’s Implementation Manager, Lloyd Stewart, commented: “For the re-location, we ensured that the original equipment manufacturers were fully engaged to assist with the design and construction phases.  The re-location was planned to minimise downtime so as not to impact on the interventional service at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and be ready to meet the opening of the new service at the Glenfield Hospital.”

Althea’s Head of Implementation & Technology, Andy Jones, commented: “The hybrid lab was a first for Althea and as recognised by all suppliers, these modalities are the most challenging projects to co-ordinate due to the high number of contractors and sub-contractors that need to be involved.  With our support the Trust selected Siemens as the main equipment supplier along with GE for the Haemodynamic monitoring and Bayer/Medrad for the injector.  Our main implementation task was to ensure all stakeholders had the required input through all phases of design and build while integrating key dates for the equipment delivery, installation and training programmes.  Our implementation expertise ensured all equipment was installed and commissioned on time with minimal disruption to hospital operations.”

Two of three new radiotherapy systems now in at the Royal Derby Hospital

As part of their 10-year managed service, Althea has now delivered and installed two brand new linear accelerators to the Royal Derby Hospital, part of Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.  The state-of-the-art equipment will support the Trust’s skilled multi-disciplinary team and ensure the continued provision of a comprehensive specialist consultant based service for the assessment, treatment and follow-up of cancer patients. The third and final Varian Truebeam linear accelerator will be installed and ready for clinical use by the end of this year.

The linac replacement plan started in January 2016, with the first new system going live for clinical use in August. The second decommissioning process started in September, with installation of the second new system taking place in December 2016. This July will see the decommissioning of the third and final system and will see the third new machine installed and ready to use by the end of this year.

In conjunction with the three Truebeam scanners, the Trust have also purchased an ARIA® Oncology Information System and an Eclipse™ Treatment Planning System. ARIA is a comprehensive information and image management solution that combines radiation, medical and surgical oncology information into a complete, oncology-specific electronic medical record, allowing the user to manage their patient’s entire journey from initial diagnosis to post-treatment follow-up. Eclipse™ is an integrated and comprehensive treatment planning system. With an intuitive Windows-based interface, designed to increase productivity for clinicians using simplified data settings and easy drag and drop functionality.  With the Trust’s new Varian kit, Eclipse works hand-in-hand with the ARIA oncology information system making workflow smooth, integrated and seamless. As Varian takes radiation treatment to the next level, Eclipse is designed to advance along with it, helping to aid cancer treatment using the latest in technologies.

Lorna MacDonald, Radiotherapy Services Manager, said “The machines have made a huge difference to us. They have in-built technology to provide imaging during the treatment, which means we can provide much more targeted treatment. It also means we can deliver more advanced treatment. Our patients seem very happy with the new machines.”

Steve Liptrot, from Uttoxeter, has just completed treatment for prostate cancer with the new machines. He stated “I’ve been very impressed with the machines. It’s all been positive. My experience of the hospital and treatment has been second to none.”

Around 40 patients a day are treated by each machine, for a variety of cancers.

Althea delivers UK-first for UHL’s imaging department

On Saturday 5th November, University Hospitals of Leicester (UHL) in partnership with Althea, took delivery of a brand new, state-of-the-art MRI relocatable unit, a UK-first delivery for the Imaging Department at UHL. This relocatable unit replaces the Trust’s old trailer via their 18-year managed service contract, which has already seen a wave of replacements take place at UHL this year.

On Friday 10th February the unit was officially opened at the Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) by one of the Trust’s patients Luke Swain. Luke has been a patient of UHL’s since the age of nine when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Now twenty-two he has had regular MRI scans and has got to know the department and staff very well over the years. The opening ceremony saw the cutting of the ribbon, followed by a food and drinks reception attended by key members of staff from the hospital as well as some of Luke’s family.

The unit was constructed at Lamboo Mobile Medical’s factory in the Netherlands for five months and houses a Siemens MRI scanner which was delivered and partly installed in preparation of delivery. The 1.5T Magnetom Aera offers a more comfortable experience as well as many technological advances. The detailed images it provides can enhance diagnostic confidence – giving you one of the highest quality MRI exams available today.

The delivery to the LRI was a complicated process, managed by Lamboo Mobile Medical, a global company specialising in the engineering and manufacturing of Mobile and Modular healthcare solutions and logistics company, Westdijk Transport. The transportation of the extra-large load, which involved a ferry trip from Holland to the UK, was four metres wide and twenty metres long, but successfully made it to the outside of the Physiotherapy department at the LRI where it has taken permanent residence.

Historically, MRI system replacements can cause months of disruption to hospitals and their patient waiting lists, however, by purchasing a relocatable unit, the LRI were able to continue a normal, undisrupted service to their patients. Without onsite disruption, Lamboo worked with Althea, Siemens Healthineers and the Trust’s Estates department to allow 90% of the installation to take place at Lamboo’s factory in the Netherlands.

The Estates team at the Trust were heavily involved with the installation process, ensuring the slab that the relocatable unit would rest on was able to support the unit. Special concrete flooring also had to be laid to ensure the unit was safe and level for scanning and could integrate with the hospital’s infrastructure.

Francesca Evans, Althea’s Chief Technologist commented, “We are really excited about this relocatable unit, the first on our portfolio. The collaborative working by all teams; Althea, Lamboo, Westdijk, Siemens Healthineers and UHL has worked really well and it’s great to see all our hard work paid off now that the Trust are scanning patients.”

Rajinder Sandhu, UHL’s MRI Superintendent Radiographer commented: “This project is a culmination of months of hard work by a team of experts collaborating from across different parts of Europe. It’s a very innovative approach to increase our capacity and many other trusts are looking at using as a model going forward.”

Matthew Archer, Head of Operations for Clinical Support and Imaging at Leicester’s Hospitals, adds: “Historically, this kind of project would have caused months of disruption to our Imaging department so we are all delighted it was up and running within weeks.”