SOMATOM Scope: Cost-Saving Quality

Manuel Meyer|2015-01-20

As a global pioneer in a time of tight budgets, the Portuguese Institute of Oncology, Lisbon, Francisco Gentil (IPOLFG) was the first clinic worldwide to install the new SOMATOM® Scope, delivering high-quality clinical outcomes in an economical way.

Photos: Pedro Guimarães

While the costs of cancer diagnostics and treatment continue to rise in Portugal as elsewhere, state healthcare budgets have shrunk considerably in the wake of the continuing financial crisis. In view of this funding shortfall, the Portuguese Institute of Oncology in Lisbon (IPOLFG) – like many other public hospitals – is faced with a decisive question: How to save expenditures without compromising on high quality standards in the treatment of patients?

The Portuguese Institute of Oncology, Lisbon, Francisco Gentil (IPOLFG), Portugal. (Photo: Pedro Guimarães)
The Portuguese Institute of Oncology, Lisbon, Francisco Gentil (IPOLFG), Portugal.

“One of the ways in which we answered this question was the acquisition of the SOMATOM Scope CT scanner,” says José Venâncio, MD. As head of the radiological department at the IPOLFG, he was involved to a considerable extent in the decision to install the new Siemens CT scanner in February this year – the first in any hospital worldwide. And after just a few months, he is certain: “It was the right decision.” Immediately striking were the various features of the eCockpit. By increasing usage efficiency in all phases of use, from rest periods to operation, they noticeably reduce CT running costs, says the 55-year-old head radiologist.

Due to the device’s reduced energy consumption, a further advantage is the SOMATOM Scope’s low heat waste, as it requires less air conditioning.

Venâncio is experiencing the extremely high reliability and low maintenance costs of the SOMATOM Scope. The scanner features innovative eMode technology that analyzes scanning parameters in real time and instantly finetunes the scan with the right balance between dose, image quality, and efficiency. This means the system is not operated at peak, reducing wear and tear to all movable parts. He also cites the benefits of the eStart function, which gently preheats the X-ray tube after extended periods of non-use to avoid the stress of cold starts. The result is high reliability both from the scanner and the tube.

However, as the radiologist points out, the new CT scanner has many more advantages. When he was tasked with heading the radiological department four years ago, the assignment was not only to bring down the cost of radiology, but also to make it more efficient in light of personnel shortfalls arising from layoffs and hiring freezes imposed at the IPOLFG as part of government austerity measures.

“Today, we must work more using fewer staff and resources,” comments José Venâncio, who has been at the IPOLFG for 28 years. The scanner supports us in that mission. The user-friendly software and technologies such as FAST Planning and FAST Spine have clearly enhanced clinical workflow and reduced waiting periods between scans.

José Venâncio, MD, Head Radiologist at the IPOLFG

The mid-sized hospital with 257 beds and around 1,800 members of staff is the largest of three state-run oncology institutes in Portugal. The IPOLFG in Lisbon is responsible for 5.5 million people or half of the population, covering not only Greater Lisbon, but also the entire south of Portugal as well as the island regions of Madeira and the Azores.
The radiology department plays a key role as almost all patients attending an oncology clinic require X-rays for diagnosis and monitoring of treatment. 29 radiologists carried out a total of 113,768 X-ray examinations of which 35,000 were CT scans (performed on two scanners).

Despite this relatively high workload, the clinic management and the head radiologist made a conscious decision with the SOMATOM Scope, a scanner that intelligently combines both clinical excellence and cost efficiency. Equipped with powerful technology but still affordable in a time of tight budgets, managing the number of scans required annually is not a problem according to Venâncio, who describes the device’s price-performance ratio as “optimal”.

In the procurement of a CT scanner, the head radiologist was particularly intent on ensuring that high quality standards in diagnosis and imaging should be guaranteed, including 3D image processing and advanced applications such as provided by syngo.via. “Here, too, the SOMATOM Scope has proven its worth across the board,” José Venâncio says.

Reduced X-ray dose
Fig. 1: Excellent image quality, even for large volume coverage: This patient was imaged using CARE Dose4D and IRIS and dose was reduced to 6.5 mGy (while the European Comission1 recommends a maximum of 35 mGy)

“Thanks to this scanner and its dose-saving technologies, we’ve also managed to reduce the X-ray dose for all scans,” Venâncio explains. This, he says, is especially important for cancer patients, who must undergo several X-rays, as well as for the many younger and more vulnerable patients. “The IPOLFG is the only hospital in its entire jurisdiction that provides pediatric oncology services. In some cases – follow-up studies – we’ve been able to reduce the dosage by up to 40 percent while maintaining high levels of quality and diagnostic confidence,” the head radiologist notes.

Manuel Meyer is a writer for the German Ärztezeitung in Portugal and Spain.