Roadshow flags new developments in ICON

Two important new programmes in the ICON offering were ‘road tested’ during a series of regional meetings between ICON network members, management and clinical governance teams in the past three months.

ICON is evolving. The network is working on two new initiatives to expand access to quality cancer care and, in the past three months, it took to the road to discuss these new developments with its members.

“As a network-driven, evidence-based organisation, ICON relies on the input of its members,” says Chris Salmon, ICON network manager. “The ICON model is based on the premise of continuous improvement, and the meetings gave us an opportunity to engage with oncologists on critical clinical, governance and industry issues. Our shared goal is to drive improved access to quality care while balancing this against funding realities.

“We must ensure that doctors are remunerated fairly for what they do, while the patient receives the best quality care possible that is affordable to medical schemes.”

Top of the agenda for discussion was the expansion, planned for 2017, of ICON’s two-level treatment programme to include a third level that will fall between the existing standard and enhanced levels.

“The idea, Salmon says, is to mirror the three broad levels of benefit design that medical aids offer their members.”

“The additional mid-level is aimed at scheme options with benefits that allow more than PMB level of care (PMB is the minimum benefit the scheme is required to fund by law). Treatments included should be evidence based, cost-effective and of high-quality,” explains Lee-Ann Jones, Clinical Executive at ICON.

“The mid-level programme will include all treatments available in the entry-level with certain regimens currently only available in the high-level option added in. Specifically we want to increase access to some of the newer drugs where appropriate. It is therefore a blend of entry and high-level protocols, with an emphasis on appropriate, cost-effective care. We have currently proposed a programme on clinical grounds and are in the process of performing a budget impact analysis,” says Jones.

In tandem with the work to expand its two-level programme offering, ICON is also planning to launch an exciting new Best Supportive Care Programme next year. Effectively a 4th level of care, the programme seeks to give patients whose condition cannot be treated and require palliative care access to funds. According to Dr David Eedes, who is driving this initiative, doctors find it difficult to tell a patient that further treatment will not improve their condition. Sometimes they will continue to treat patients in order to give them hope.

Salmon says: “This programme will allow for a structured plan in the case of palliative care. It may begin with a questionnaire completed by a patient and family members to prepare them for the next stage of the cancer journey. It’s all about caring for terminal patients appropriately whether making funds available for home nursing or certain types of pain medication.

“We want to empower families to support their loved one appropriately and allow them to die at home if they choose to do so.”

The programme is being developed in conjunction with several medical aid schemes.

Salmon says that taken together, these new developments will significantly widen access to quality cancer care across the spectrum of the cancer journey and that the additions reflect ICON’s holistic approach to cancer care.

“The ICON network is a vital and growing community of professionals who are stepping up to take ownership of oncology in South Africa and this is reflected in the scope and integrity of the programmes we offer,” he says. “Our rigorous clinical governance standards – which are unique to a network of this kind – create a strong platform to empower doctors professionally, while strengthening the oncology industry as a whole.”

Salmon adds that the valuable conversations that have taken place around the country in the past few months on these issues will be continued at the upcoming ICON conference in August.

“If the level of ideas and debate at the regional meetings are anything to go by, ICON’s 2016 conference is set to be a dynamic event, not to be missed,” he concludes.