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.”

Althea installs first of four new DR rooms in Leicester

Althea, in partnership with University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL), has installed the first of four new digital x-ray rooms at Glenfield Hospital’s Radiology department. The Samsung-manufactured GC85, distributed by MIS, is one of four rooms that will be installed at the hospital in the next year as part of their managed service contract.

The state-of-the-art Samsung GC85 room features two wireless DR detectors which lead their class with a DQE of around 80%. The room comes with fully automated movement as standard in all of its key elements including tube, table and erect bucky. With anatomical programming the system offers virtually ’hands off‘ Radiography capable of almost 1,000 different protocols.

Nick Clark, Radiology Site Manager of the Glenfield hospital commented; “With its innovative automation aimed at reducing RSI, its ease of use and novel features like S-Align and S-Share allows Samsung to be at the forefront of ground breaking technology. These features along with others show a real advance in plain film room technology.”

Francesca Evans, Althea’s Chief Technologist commented, “This is an exhilarating time to be installing new pioneering digital x-ray equipment. Any new advances in technology that can help with RSI and improve diagnostic quality to provide the best for our patients is a must! We are looking forward to working with MIS over the next year to install more of this excellent product to the Glenfield team.”

Pictured are: Tony Rogers, MIS Account Manager – Midlands; Nick Clarke, Superintendent – Glenfield; Amanda Douglas, Senior Radiographer; Lucy Lewis, Deputy Superintendent Radiographer; Phil Jones, MIS Account Manager – North; Francesca Evans, Althea – Chief Technologist.

New pharmacy robot at UHL

Althea is pleased to announce it has installed a state-of-the-art ARX UK Vmax robotic pharmacy at Leicester Royal Infirmary. The Vmax has been provided through the University of Leicester Hospitals NHS Trust’s 18-year managed service contract, which supports the Trusts’ clinical teams in Radiology, Cardiology and Pharmacy.

The new robotic pharmacy installation means that the Trust will benefit from technology enhancements including a user-friendly touchscreen and barcode system which will ensure instant access to stock levels, space availability and expiring stock information for the most accurate stock management. The pharmacy has the ability to collect eight packets at once – a substantial increase over the old robot. The self-cleaning equipment is also quieter and is 50% more space efficient at storing packets, opening up further storage space for the Trust.

Paul Couchman, Pharmacy Service Manager at Leicester’s Hospitals, commented, “The ability to update and refresh our automated dispensing system through the Althea contract has enabled us to install and utilise the latest technology in order to continue to meet the dispensing demands of the hospital. The solution delivered has made best use of available space within the department whilst giving increased performance and improved medicines storage. The re-location of the automated dispensing cabinets has also improved both the dispensing workflow and quality of the dispensary environment”.

New ultrasounds installed at UHL

Since December 2014, Althea has successfully installed 23 new ultrasound systems at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL).  These installations have been for a range of departments including Echocardiology, Antenatal, Vascular and General Medicine across the Trust’s three main sites – Leicester General Hospital, Royal Infirmary, and Glenfield Hospital.

Throughout the vendor-neutral selection process Althea has organised a number of demonstrations from across the supplier base.  The Trust was able to evaluate the range of equipment available and with the impartial advice of Althea’s modality experts selected the right equipment to optimise clinical outcomes and meet patient needs.  Through their managed service contract UHL has installed a mix of ultrasounds from across the supplier base including GE, Philips and Hitachi.

New mobile breast units improve services for Derbyshire women

Two new mobile breast units are to go out on the screening rounds in Derbyshire this autumn.

The brand new vans – one with a pink interior and one with blue – replace the ones which have been in operation for the last 15 years and are the first major piece of equipment replaced by the Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust through a managed equipment service provided by Althea. A new MRI scanner for Derby patients is expected in the New Year.

They carry state-of-the-art digital machines, which work more quickly and provide a higher-resolution image for analysis.

Superintendent Radiographer Jean Bonsall said: “The digital image will be produced straight away, which will make things easier for the radiographers, and better for the patient, as they won’t have to wait around. The technology means the radiographer can focus her attention on the patient, rather than the machine.”

The improved imaging will be particularly useful for younger patients, she added, as it will be able to detect smaller anomalies in scans.

The pink van was delivered this week. It will head out on the road next Wednesday, with the first stop in Swadlincote.

Its blue counterpart will be added to the round next month.

Each unit sees around 50 women a day – adding up to 250 women each week. Women aged between 50 and 70 are invited for screening every three years. If there are concerns over the scan results, they are called into the breast unit for further tests.

Women over the age of 70 can still be screened, but they have to request an appointment.

Pictured left to right: Jean Bonsall, Superintendent Radiographer; Dr Mark Bagnall, Consultant Radiologist; Lee Chlechowicz, Clinical Manager for Imaging; and Sue James, Chief Executive for Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.