Icon Group to pioneer treatment-plan exports to Southeast Asia
Founded in 2015 via the acquisition of several long-established Australian healthcare businesses, Queensland-based Icon Group is changing the landscape for cancer care. By integrating separate treatment disciplines – medical oncology, haematology, radiation oncology, pharmacy, and compounding – the company can deliver multi-discipline, expert cancer care from regional to metropolitan Australia. After just two years as a Group, Icon is the largest dedicated cancer-care provider in Australia, with 1,700 employees delivering one million patient interactions per year across its entire healthcare network.
Now, Southeast Asia beckons. Rising living standards and longer life spans mean that treatable cancer cases across the region are likely to rise by 20 per cent over the next decade. The need to introduce new oncology treatments to patients in Southeast Asia is immense.
For Icon Group Chief Executive Officer, Mark Middleton, partnering with an established medical practice in Singapore proved the optimal way forward.
'In 2016, we purchased Singapore Oncology Consultants (SOC) which had 80 employees located in clinics at four hospitals,' says Middleton. 'The acquisition strategy was win-win — Icon gained superb, practising clinicians with local knowledge, and SOC became part of Icon's exceptional knowledge-sharing oncology ecosystem, delivering customised quality care to cancer patients. Today, we're delivering approximately 2,000 patient interactions per month in Singapore.'
Middleton sees Australia's medical expertise – including an ingrained culture of advanced, specialist knowledge-sharing – as a vital source of competitive advantage in overseas markets. His company strives to enhance oncology best practice: Icon doctors collaborate on patient cases; nurses and therapists undergo group-wide training and everyone uses technology to share ideas, experience and results.
'Australia can export medical talent and we need to find innovative ways of doing this,' he says. 'By bringing SOC into the Group, we have combined their exceptional clinical capability with our innovative approach to technology to create a future solution for cancer care across Asia. Using the Singaporean and Australian bases to increase the depth and breadth of knowledge for clinicians across the region means patients, no matter where they are located, are in safer hands.'
True to its innovation ethic, Icon is also taking radiation oncology treatment one radical step further — exporting treatment plans direct from its Brisbane head office. Icon Plan takes a patient's CT scans as a digital input into software programs, then in-house radiation therapists and dosimetrists rapidly devise an optimal treatment plan. These plans can be delivered by any medical facility with a linear accelerator, which are becoming increasingly prevalent in regional hospitals across Southeast Asia.
'Icon Plan is a new type of medical export, because part of the medical process is conducted remotely,' says Middleton. 'It means a doctor in a clinic in Vietnam, for example, can send us the scan, and we can dispatch a treatment plan within hours or a few days. Patients aren't impacted by shortages of specialists, and they can start treatment almost immediately.'
Icon Plan services are currently provided across Australia, with New Zealand and China coming on board next year. Middleton anticipates the company's regional hub in Singapore will act as a springboard for these services into Southeast Asia. Local clinicians will be ideally placed to build new medical relationships and pioneer the service across the ASEAN region.
As Icon seeks new medical partners across ASEAN, Middleton will reach out to Austrade missions in multiple countries.
'Austrade has instigated multiple introductions in Singapore and Vietnam,' he says. 'These officials have been pivotal in raising our profile with health ministries in the region and advising on regulatory process. With their help, we gain visibility in new markets.
'Southeast Asia offers enormous scope to Australia's medical industries, and Austrade will help them take the first step.'