ICON’s accreditation – the quest for quality cancer care

ICON’s accreditation process is part of the network’s key objective to ensure that cancer care in South Africa meets not only the highest international standards but also to share best practice information with all affiliated oncology practices in the country.

Inspired by international trends in quality assurance and conscious of the move towards greater efficiency in all aspects of cancer care, ICON was moved to update its accreditation process. This has resulted in a shorter, more user-friendly version put together by the organisation’s new clinical governance head, Professor Raymond Abratt.

“All ICON practices have been asked to follow the new accreditation guidelines, which basically amount to a quality assurance; an integral part of oncology,” says Professor Abratt, who was head of the department of Radiation Oncology at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, prior to joining ICON.

“What we are talking about here is a self-audit that practices will undertake regarding the equipment and clinical processes on their premises. The response from practices thus far has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Professor Abratt.

He adds that while audits can often have negative connotations, the idea behind ICON’s audit is positive, focusing on what practices are achieving and the good work that is being done.  One of the aims is to share this information throughout the network so members can learn from each other.

ICON Operations Executive, Dr Ernst Marais agrees, “It is a way of acknowledging all the very good cancer care that is on offer in South Africa, to formalise and document it. We are advocating a formal accreditation process as it will ensure all members have the same standards, the same basic principles in place,” he says.

Dr Marais explains that the international trend in oncology over the past few years has been towards improving quality and controlling costs in the field of cancer care. “At an ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) quality conference three years ago, I was surprised to see how many practices already have formal quality programmes in place and this impressed upon me the need for us to initiate these kinds of programmes.”

Dr Marais said the biggest talking points in the world of cancer care today were managing costs and minimising waste – unnecessary procedures, investigations and treatments, which is exactly what the ICON model is addressing.

Professor Abratt adds, “The auditing process is part of continuous quality improvement. It is not about passing or failing but informing members of how they are complying with regulations, patient safety, clinical care and governance.”

“At the end of it, an accredited practice knows that it has passed a benchmark standard, informed by government regulation and international practice. It gives our members an index of the quality of the care provided,” he says. “Practices should see accreditation as a planning tool, illustrating how they can improve their services. It is an opportunity for self-reflection and growth.”

Professor Abratt says the audit was compiled by a team from ICON in consultation with various other health professionals. ICON also invites feedback from practices on the accreditation process. This helps ICON improve its own systems.

“In line with international trends, ICON is committed to the ideals of quality care,” says Dr Marais. “But it goes further than that. We are investing in infrastructure, electronic databases, software and accreditation systems – ensuring that what we are establishing now is more than an ideal, but a reality of quality practices, conforming to the highest international standard in cancer care.”

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