Posts

Pioneering consumable management service enhances patient safety and traceability

A pioneering consumable management service has been introduced by Althea at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton as an integral part of their Radiology managed service.

Althea has enabled the Trust to track all Radiology products from the moment they are sourced until they are assigned to a patient.  This pioneering service enables the delivery of better patient care, improved clinical productivity and supply chain efficiency; whilst future-proofing the Trust against the Department of Health and Social Care’s Scan4Safety criteria.

Althea’s service includes a bespoke inventory management system and an on-site stock controller who ensures the clinical team can maintain their focus on patient care.

Once products arrive from the centralised Receipt & Distribution area Althea’s stock controller adds them to the inventory management system via a handheld scanner.  The stock controller then decants the right products into the right areas of the Radiology department ensuring there is the appropriate quantity and size of products available for each procedure.  Thereafter the stock controller ensures stock obsolescence is eliminated.

At point-of-care the clinical team then utilise a handheld scanner to assign the product to the patient – including lot and serial numbers.  This allows for lifetime traceability as well as facilitating procedure-level costings for the hospital’s management team.

Once consumed the product is removed from the inventory and an automated replenishment order is raised, with all procurement and finance activities performed by Althea’s back office team – providing the Trust with further efficiency savings.

Dr Katharine Lewis, Clinical Lead for Interventional Radiology, said: “This system can track an exact product to a particular patient, which enhances patient safety.

“We also benefit from the system updating our stock volumes in real-time, enabling us to maintain efficient stock levels to meet clinical demands and we feel it has improved our efficiency and service overall.”

Althea’s consumable management service delivers a reliable, efficient, and patient-focussed service to eight clinical departments at seven NHS hospitals.  The outsourced managed service is fully aligned with NHS England’s recently announced changes to the specialised High-Cost Tariff-Excluded Devices programme and the move to a Visible Cost Model, and is saving hospitals up to 30% on their clinical consumable and device expenditure on a vendor-neutral basis.

Althea is one of the largest independent buyers of Radiology, Cardiology, and Endoscopy clinical consumables and devices in the UK and has achieved economies of scale that lead to real procurement savings and cost avoidance for NHS customers.

David Rolfe, UK&I Chief Executive Officer at Althea said “A lot of hospitals have inventory systems in place, however what they cannot do is track every product against a patient and be able to deliver traceability. This innovative service is extremely advanced, and we are delighted that it has made such an impact to the Trust.”

Althea has a catalogue of over 3,500 clinical consumables and devices sourced from over 100 suppliers in line with its ethos of vendor-independence and clinical choice.  Althea dovetails clinical flexibility with operational efficiencies without compromising research and innovation.

Whittington Health NHS Trust unveils £4m state-of-the-art Radiology department

Althea is delighted to have completed a £4m refurbishment and replacement project at Whittington Health NHS Trust’s (WH) Imaging Department.

The new diagnostic imaging equipment, which was updated and installed over a two-year period, includes 14 ultrasounds, a CT scanner, a fluoroscopy system, 5 digital x-ray rooms, 3 mobile x-ray machines, 1 digital dental x-ray and a mammography unit.

Being vendor independent, Althea was able to source the equipment from a variety of different manufacturers including GE, Canon, Samsung, Siemens, Hologic and Planmeca; choosing each item specifically based on clinicians’ and patients’ needs.

Included within the new equipment is the Nuclear Medicine Department equipped with a state-of-the-art SPECT-CT scanner. This hybrid scanner allows detection of the organ’s functional information using the SPECT camera and precise localisation of relevant areas using the CT scanner. The amalgamation of these two diagnostic tools provide massive improvements in the quality of nuclear medicine images resulting to higher confidence in detecting, localising and in certain examinations, quantifying the degree of pathologic findings.

Also included are 5 new Samsung digital x-ray rooms and 3 mobile systems – all with wireless imaging detectors. They are designed to raise efficiency to a whole new level due to its streamlined operation. The new machines come equipped with state-of-the-art technologies such as S-Detector, S-Vue & S-Align, which provides outstanding image quality to enhance patient diagnosis.

The department’s new stitching package has also enhanced the diagnostic process for spinal patients and has provided an added dimension to improve patient management. Through ease of use and automated positioning, patient imaging examination times are reduced allowing a greater volume of patients to be seen in the same time frame.

Also newly installed is a Hologic 3Dimensions mammography unit which provides superior resolution diagnostic breast imaging and High Definition Tomosynthesis, facilitating more accurate diagnosis of smaller breast lesions particularly in dense breast tissue. The Affirm Biopsy package allows biopsies to be performed under tomography guidance, enabling faster and more accurate sampling of micro-calcifications and wire localisation placement.

With all equipment now operational and providing patients with the quality of services they deserve; Althea has shifted its focus to providing service excellence. On the ground, its specialist team ensure ongoing maintenance and training programmes are closely managed, minimising equipment downtime and promoting the use of these new digital technologies to maximum effect.

Helen Taylor, Clinical Director for Acute Patient Access, Clinical Support Services and Women’s Health at Whittington Health NHS Trust said “Everything we do here at Whittington Health is driven by our ambition to provide our patients with outstanding safe, compassionate and innovative care. The refurbishment of our Imaging Department together with all of the new and more advanced technology which Althea has installed is a key example of how we are delivering this vision.”

David Rolfe, UK&I Chief Executive Officer at Althea, said “We have been working with the Trust since 2005 and this is the second time we have completed a refurbishment and replacement project within the Imaging Department.”

“From day one we have worked closely to evaluate the Radiography needs of the Trust and develop a sustainable long-term equipment replacement programme. The partnership guarantees that the Trust’s state-of-the-art equipment will be maintained throughout the lifetime of the contract enabling them to focus solely on patient care.”

The new Radiology Department was formally unveiled at a special open evening on Friday 6th September. Invited guests included local GPs from Haringey and Islington boroughs, Radiology undergraduates, as well as WH’s executive team, staff and Imaging suppliers. Professor Mary Lovegrove OBE, Emeritus Professor of Education and Development for Allied Health Professions was the keynote speaker.

Althea installs two state-of-the-art 3D mammography units at Derby Hospital

Two state-of-art 3D mammography systems that offer women a more comfortable breast exam experience have been installed at the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust.

The technology – GE Senographe Pristina Mammography System – was installed by Althea as part of the Trust’s Managed Equipment Service (MES) contract.

The upgraded facilities include a tomosynthesis, biopsy and contrast enhancement – features that the hospital’s old equipment didn’t have. The extra additions enable the Royal Derby team at UHDB’s Royal Derby Hospital site to be at the forefront of technology and research enabling the people of Derby to get the best diagnostic care.

The Senographe Pristina mammography system was designed to ease anxiety of patients as they enter the exam room. The new, inviting mammography promotes a sense of calm and has redesigned patient comfort to ensure women are comfortable during their examination.

Having these capabilities on both pieces of equipment enables patients in Derby to have multiple elements of care in one visit, rather than having to come back for the biopsy on a separate occasion. Clinicians also benefit from these installations as they increase the Trust’s scope of practice and meet requirements for continued professional development.

Lee Chlechowicz, Breast Screening and PACS Clinical Manager, added: “The new pieces of equipment are ergonomically designed and has enhanced capabilities which enables our patients to have a more comfortable and comprehensive diagnostic experience in a single visit, rather than having to come back for the biopsy on a separate occasion. Our clinicians and radiographers also benefit from these installations as they increase our scope of practice and meet requirements for continued professional development.”

Althea has a 10-year contract with the Trust which started in 2014.

Pictured left to right: Jordan Reid (Senior Radiographer), Jean Bonsall (Superintendant Radiographer), Fiona Oliver (Senior Radiographer) & Elaine Lewis (Superintendant Radiographer).

Althea installs two state-of-the-art Radiology Equipment at Peterborough City Hospital

Althea is delighted to have installed two brand new Radiology equipment at Peterborough City Hospital. Both replacements were part of the hospitals ongoing Managed Equipment Service (MES) contract.

The first replacement was an interventional suite in December 2018, which included the installation of the Philips Allura Clarity FD20.

The replacement plan involved the clinical team revising the layout of the room to allow a better work flow. The lighting was also upgraded to LED within the main theatre to provide better light for all users – a change which has impacted positively on clinicians’ day-to-day working environments.

Throughout the installation Althea and the Trust worked closely together to keep clinical downtime to a minimum and limit any disruption during the build phase of the project.

The Interventional Suite is used to carry out angiograms, stenting, embolisations, IVF filter insertions and nephrograms. It is currently on a 7-year lifecycle replacement scheme within the MES.

Neil Meadows from the trust commented: “This new FD20 machine is far superior to our previous machine, with very positive feedback from the Radiologists and Clinicians, we have also seen a reduction in dose that the patient receives, which is very positive.”

The second installation, which was completed in March 2019, was the wide bore Radiotherapy CT used to plan treatment for cancer patients.

It was vital this project ran to schedule to avoid delays in planning patient’s radiotherapy treatments. The Radiotherapy Department was able to work in conjunction with the diagnostic team in Radiology to share the diagnostic CT throughout the installation.

Althea hosts Italian interns at Peterborough City Hospital

Althea are delighted to be hosting two Italian interns at Peterborough City Hospital as part of a four-month work placement at the hospital.

Luca Burla and Lorenzo Serschen came to the UK on the 10th February and will be staying until the 25th June working with the Althea team based on-site.

The medical engineer interns are both studying Biomedical Engineering in Trieste, North East Italy, but wanted to come to the UK to put their knowledge into action within a clinical setting.

Under the guidance of Clinical Equipment Manager Carla Wood, the pair are working to MHRA Management of Medical Device guidelines which is what is expected onsite.

“It’s been great to have them join our team and be able to give them so much diverse training”, said Carla.

“We deliver a full MES contract at Peterborough, covering both biomedical and DI, which means they have had the opportunity to work on a range of equipment. Everything from thermometers to state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging equipment.”

As well as learning more about how a UK hospital system works, they have also been able to use and test a variety of machines, as well as gain vast experience from the wider Althea team.

For example, they have learnt more about the role of the librarian, a position that doesn’t exist in Italy, how they operate and their importance. They have also met with Francesco Capello, an ultrasound engineer that studied on the same course a couple of years ago, who is teaching them about ultrasound scanners and probes.

Luca said: “We are really enjoying our time here in Peterborough and have had the opportunity to check our abilities in a real-life clinical setting. At the beginning it was a little but difficult as we had to learn different work rhythms, culture and language, but now we are settled in we are learning so much from the experience. Thank you to everyone for their kindness and support.”

Spotlight on Althea’s MR training

Training is a huge part of Althea’s culture. Whether it’s being trained as a new starter or developing skills for a different role, internal training plays a key part.

Mark McArthur is Althea’s Modality Coach (MR) and following years of experience and his dual role working as Tech Support and Training Specialist across Europe, he is able to pass on his vast knowledge to MRI field service engineers.

At Theale we are extremely lucky to have a Centre of Excellence in MR which is accessed by Althea employees from around the world,” explains Mark.

“We have fully functional Siemens MR systems that we can use for in-depth training, testing parts and coils, as well as showing customers when they visit our head office. It is a wonderful facility that we can use in so many ways to help people learn and develop new skills.”

The MR courses that Mark runs combine a mixture of classroom-based learning and practical workshops. The service engineers are taught to fix the problem remotely by diagnosing the issue on the phone whilst speaking to the customer. If it cannot be diagnosed remotely then a part is ordered and fixed onsite –  one visit, one fix.

A lot of the courses we do are two weeks long, so they are very in-depth. In the morning we cover lots of theory and then do more practical activities in the afternoon. There is a big focus on troubleshooting as I have found that most engineers learn more by going through the process of diagnosing a problem and finding the solution. That way when they are actually faced with the same fault in the field, they know exactly what to do.”

Mark explains that what he enjoys most about the role is that no two days are the same and he gets to work with people with different industry backgrounds.

A perfect example of this was on the Aera/Skyra Systems Course we ran recently. There was someone who has worked for an OEM for over 25 years. Despite their vast experience and knowledge of systems they still learn something new every day.

“We also have a trainee graduate, straight from Sheffield Hallam University, who had been trained by Althea in-house from scratch. They are now able to put their theory into practice by learning on the job from the more experienced members of the team.”

“The third was a new starter, who hasn’t worked for an OEM but has worked in industry and brought with them different knowledge to the team. Three very different paths but all coming together to support one another and learn from each other’s knowledge. It’s fantastic that we have such a great resource here at Althea and I am lucky to meet so many different people from across the company. I really do have the best job in the world!”

Althea & Samsung Complete Leicester’s Digital Transformation

March 2019 saw the end of CR Radiography at Leicester General Hospital’s (LGH) Radiology Department with the installation of two Samsung GM85 state-of-the-art DR Mobiles and the last of three GC85 fully automated X-ray rooms. Supported by Althea, LGH’s team reviewed all available systems on the market and decided on the Samsung GM85 units.

Through their vendor-independent managed service with Althea, the hospital has selected three Samsung GC85 fully automated rooms, and two Samsung GM85 mobiles. All of this digital equipment reduces physical stress on users, improves patient throughput and delivers images of superb quality. The GC85 is a world-beating, fully-automated, digital suite designed to reduce physical stress on users, increase patient throughput and deliver superb quality images.

The new equipment features Samsung’s intuitive 3-step workflow which takes the user easily through worklist, acquisition and image review.

Going forward LGH will be able to share their lightweight detectors across the department’s Samsung equipment – fixed and mobile – 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 new Samsung mobiles completes our transformation to a fully DR department; the whole process was managed superbly by both MIS and Althea”.

Francesca Evans, Chief Technologist says “Taking the jump and decommissioning all of the CR equipment was exhilarating, but comforting knowing that the Samsung equipment is very reliable. The equipment is easy to use, so making the whole department part of the same manufacturer was an obvious choice”.

Althea is the world’s largest, vendor-independent managed service and maintenance provider for the acute healthcare sector.

Their service includes a guaranteed long-term capital replacement programme which covers all of the Trust’s diagnostic imaging equipment including plain x-ray rooms and mobile x-ray systems.

All equipment installations were planned and project-managed by Althea’s in-house implementation and technology experts and were delivered on time and on budget.

David Rolfe, UK&I Chief Executive Officer added “We are delighted to have completed the Samsung installations at the hospital and have been able to make such an impact for clinicians and patients. Being entirely vendor-independent ensures Althea is not tied to any one manufacturer and can offer hospitals the most efficient solution for their specific clinical needs.”

Pictured with Tony Rogers, Account Manager for MIS, are members of Leicester General’s Imaging team.

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.