How one of Asia Pacific’s largest cancer care providers adapted to treating patients in a COVID world

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In the last three years Icon Group has seen exponential growth across Australia and Asia. From building cancer centres in regional Australia and establishing a mature footprint in Singapore, to delivering a new standard of radiation therapy in China and introducing Icon to the Hong Kong market; there is no denying it has been an iconic journey. Now as the world continues to grapple with COVID-19, Icon is ensuring cancer patients are not left vulnerable.

Icon’s dedication to care is reflected in the continued investment of technology and innovation combined with a patient-centred approach and clinically-led leadership. Having been pillars of the Australian and Singaporean healthcare landscape for decades, Icon’s multidisciplinary team is equipped with a rich international clinical experience across the full spectrum of oncology. From, medical oncology to haematology, radiation oncology, cancer clinical trials, chemotherapy compounding and hospital pharmacy, Icon treats patients from diagnosis through to treatment and into survivorship with a unique all-encompassing approach to care. This has formed the backbone of Icon’s swift COVID-19 response. With one cancer centre and a regional office in China, Icon had to adapt quickly when the virus initially spread throughout China. Procuring PPE and implementing strict preventative protocols became a priority.

Icon Group CEO, Mark Middleton says the group’s international network and longstanding industry relationships allowed teams and patients to stay safe.

“We were able to utilise our expertise and resources from our Singapore and Australia teams, acting quickly and finding innovative ways to secure ample PPE for China. As our teams in China adapted to treating cancer patients under strict hygiene protocols they continued to share their learnings with the wider group,” said Mr Middleton.

As COVID-19 cases entered Singapore, the China experience coupled with the knowledge of Icon Singapore’s oncologists positioned the team to rapidly pivot and change protocols and efficiently instigate new ways of thinking. Regional medical tourism holds a significant portion of the organisation’s patient base despite wider Singaporean reports of a downturn in the sector. This stability is a reflection of the quality cancer care Icon delivers and the regional relationships fostered over the years. A unique shared-care model forms the basis of this robust medical tourism service which connects regional patients to acute cancer treatment and clinicians in Singapore, while enabling them to access local home-based medical care to manage ongoing health and follow-up appointments. When Singapore’s borders closed it was vital for Icon to adapt.

Icon ASEAN CEO, Serena Wee said this was an important part of continuing to be leaders in oncology and ensure cancer patients could still have critical treatment.

“We understand that as a leading healthcare company we have a duty of care. Some of the most vulnerable people in society rely on us. So we moved fast and introduced tele-health consultations not only locally, but across ASEAN, we organised home delivery of prescription medications and where possible helped patients apply for medical waiver and medical evacuation to travel to Singapore for life-saving treatment not available locally. Alongside our established shared care network we were able to arrange necessary treatment and ongoing care in a patient’s home country ensuring they remained safe throughout this challenging time,” said Ms Wee.

Locally, throughout the very height of COVID-19, Icon Singapore’s cancer centres remained operational adhering to strict government regulations and implementing in-house protocols for the safety of patients, visitors and staff. This included triaging patients, screening on entry, limiting numbers in clinics, stringent PPE and hygiene procedures, split shift teams and remote working models where possible.

“The way our team has adapted to a COVID-19 environment is admirable. This time has been a learning curve for every industry and I think our knowledge is extremely valuable. From investing in remote technologies for consultations and ongoing education to changing workflow and procedures, COVID has fast-tracked innovation because cancer doesn’t stop, so neither can we,” said Ms Wee.

Over the past four years Icon in Singapore has seen unparalleled evolution, growing from four to seven clinics and six to 13 doctors, as well as the introduction of haematology and radiation oncology services. Last year Icon introduced Icon Health Screening, providing a holistic approach to health screening for a range of health conditions with seamless access to diagnostic services. Icon is also further bringing their expertise of integrated oncology to Singapore with the Mount Alvernia Hospital announcement that will see Icon build and manage a new integrated cancer centre on their hospital campus.

For Icon the patient will always be at the heart, and as long as that remains there is no obstacle too tall for this iconic business.

To learn more about Icon Group visit icongroup.global. To find out more on Icon Cancer Centre – Singapore visit iconcancercentre.sg and follow them on Facebook here.

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