The year was 2007. Apple had just introduced a new piece of technology called the iPhone and nobody was sure it would ever take off. The new Wembley stadium was completed in London: Beyonce was asking all the single ladies to “put a ring on it”; and Nicolas Sarkozy was elected President of the French Republic.
It was against this backdrop that Henrik Agrell and Hans Billing were discussing a novel idea that would potentially change the radiology scene for the better – reporting night time emergency radiology cases from an opposite time zone. At first, the idea seemed a bit far-fetched, but the more they talked it through, the more sense it made.
Not only would it take pressure off the system in Europe, but it would also allow better planning of daytime resources for the client radiology department management with radiologists only working normal day shifts. They would get a better work-life balance with more time to spend with family and friends. They could say goodbye to long, arduous night shifts and deliver better quality reporting for their clients back home.
Henrik and TMC’s then CEO David Bäckström decided to travel to Australia to investigate financial, legislative and logistical issues and managed to rent a small shared office space in the Lane Cove Business District in Sydney’s northern suburbs.
Henrik contacted Dr Hampus Eklöf, a radiologist from Uppsala who had just written an article about daytime reporting of night time radiology cases and a radiologist and a technician from Uppsala University Hospital were soon sent from Europe to report on their cases from a Sydney apartment. While the management in Uppsala did not hook on to the idea, Dr Eklöf did and Henrik persuaded him to get on board as TMC project manager to help to roll out the idea.
After almost a year of planning, recruiting and trying to find clients interested in trying this idea, he and Agneta Blomquist, a radiographer from Uppsala set up a month’s trial testing it out from the TMC office in Barcelona, before taking it the whole way to Sydney.
In August 2007, Hampus, Agneta, Dr Kjell Westerberg, Dr Cecilia Salmonsson and Operations Manager Virginia Westerberg boarded a long flight to Sydney and after a few weeks of frantic work setting up the office, they were ready to successfully receive the first night´s emergency cases from Kristianstad county hospital on August 13th.
According to Henrik, TMC’s Chief Business Development Officer: “During the start-up phase we only had one client hospital and alongside the original team, we had an Australian office manager and an IT technician. It was a costly first year and (as with all new projects) it was not without its early hiccups, particularly around IT related and logistical issues. But today, we are able to provide a very reliable solution to many hospitals in Scandinavia and the UK. These hospitals really benefit from having access to senior radiologists that read their night time cases during normal business hours while their own radiologist can sleep and be more accessible during day time. ”
The next year, in October 2008, TMC got its second client hospital (Östersund) and Hans Billing was sent to Sydney to review the operation first hand and to assess its longer-term potential.
Hans continued: “When Hampus left Sydney to return to Sweden, I took over as MD and Head of On Call. By the third year, we had got another 3 hospitals and our service had become better established and well known in the Swedish radiology community. It soon became clear that the office was not functionally effective and we were a long way out of town in the Sydney suburbs, so in 2009 we moved to the Sydney Central Business District where we already had some contacts with the world´s largest teleradiology company, Nighthawk. They let us take over some free space in their huge office only a few hundred meters from the famous Opera House.
“After a year, Nighthawk was sold to the world´s second largest teleradiology provider and, after bouncing around a few more locations in Sydney, we moved to our own purpose-chosen, refurbished office on Bligh Street. Ten years later, we still have our office there and growth has meant that we also have several radiologists working from other remote places of their choice, such as Queensland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and all over Europe (the latter for coverage during the European evening hours)”.
By 2010 TMC had its first English on-call client and by the following year, we had our first Danish hospital. Today, TMC serves over 30 UK clients, almost 50 Swedish and 5 Danish hospitals. There are 21 radiologists working at the office and another half dozen working from their home work stations across Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand. Many radiologists also help to provide part time cover from Europe for the early hours for UK On Call and 7 operational staff and one IT technician work full time at the office, all supported by our great team back at the Barcelona and Reading (UK) offices”.
Hans returned to Europe in early 2016 and Dr Fausto Labruto took over as managing director and head of TMC’s Emergency Radiology Section.
Looking back on those early days, Hans commented: “I’m really proud of the enormous efforts made by so many loyal colleagues in Sydney over those 10 years. I’m also really pleased that our initial idea of night time emergency reporting from a different time zone proved so visionary and is still the model that we use today.”
Fausto Labruto added: “It’s been quite a journey. Since those early days, more than 100 radiologists, over 30 operational staff, and 4 IT technicians have contributed to our success and last year, we invested in our Sydney office to provide more space and better facilities for the record number of colleagues now working there, who now total 21 radiologists and 7 radiographers. And we’re continuing to expand, with plans in place to set up a subsidiary office in Noosa, Queensland.
“So, we have a landmark to celebrate – 10 years of ground-breaking work and business success, built on a great vision, hard work and the determination of our talented and committed colleagues. A huge thanks to all those who have contributed to our great success. We plan to celebrate with a glass of champagne at the office and then we’re all going to have a great party in September. I am so proud of this team of amazing colleagues. It’s been a real privilege to have been a part of this visionary and successful project and we can’t wait to start to continue to build a strong future right here in Sydney. Here’s to the next 20 years!”