Value-based care means more patients should be able to receive cancer treatment.  


The survival of oncology in South Africa was under the spotlight at a recent conference hosted by Icon Oncology in Cape Town. Attended by more than 700 cancer care providers, which included clinical, pharmaceutical, and technology partners, the conference was dedicated to debate the sustainability of cancer care and private oncology in the country.

Readiness for public-private partnerships to bring much-needed relief to the embattled public health system was a key focus with local and international contributions from industry experts.

Sustainability of cancer care

According to Dr Ernst Marais, co-chair of the conference and COO of Icon Oncology a solid case was made for the industry-wide adoption of alternative payment models. “Cancer is one of the most expensive diseases to treat and for more than a decade Icon Oncology has advocated the adoption of value-based care (VBC) to drive the sustainability of cancer care in the country. Our business model proves that value-based care saves money and delivers real value, both in the treatment and the outcomes for our patients. This means savings for medical schemes and their members without compromising on the quality-of-care patients receive.”

If a similar approach is implemented in the public healthcare system, uninsured patients would be able to access infrastructure and find cancer care services in the private sector. This has unused capacity and can relieve the burden currently experienced by the public sector.

“There is a financial and clinical case for using private sector expertise and infrastructure to care for patients who rely on government funded healthcare facilities,” explains Marais.

South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world. Our overburdened and fragile public healthcare system currently does not provide for all citizens who need timeous cancer treatment. “Icon Oncology is ideally positioned as a partner to Government, and we believe we can create greater equity in healthcare provision,”

“We know the current public healthcare system is under immense pressure and the capital investment needed to build treatment capacity is prohibitively expensive. However, by partnering with the private sector the government can bring immediate relief to thousands of patients who are currently waiting to receive life-saving treatment.

Current statistics: 

  • 80% of local oncologists are servicing 9 million lives in the private sector.
  • 20% of local oncologists are employed in the public sector.
  • The public sector serves 85% of the population which means 50 million people who are uninsured.
  • The private sector has access to 52 Linear accelerators (Linacs).
  • The public sector has access to 32 Linacs (some are not in service due to breakdowns).

How does it work?

VBC places the patient firmly at the centre of their treatment by aiming for the best clinical outcomes and patient experience (quality) at lower costs to both the patient and the funder. This means that there is less wastage and more money left for life-saving treatment.” explains Marais.

Icon Oncology has built its model on four key pillars: rational selection, sustainable finance, reliable infrastructure, and an affordable process.

“In layman’s terms this means that we used evidence-based treatment protocols which have proven results and outcomes for patients; we have contracts in place with both private and public funders; we have a network of over 150 oncologists who have capacity to see more patients; we invest in the latest treatment technology, and we have built an administrative system which reduces wastage and saves money,” says Marais.

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