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For the Icon Group, delivering world-class cancer care across Australia, New Zealand, and Asia has required extensive travel to train staff and support its cancer centres and other sites.
The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way they work, with teams embracing cutting-edge technology including augmented reality headsets to continue delivering essential care.
The Icon Group is Australia’s largest dedicated provider of cancer care. In 2019, it became the first Australian healthcare company to deliver cancer treatment in China, establishing a radiation oncology service in Jiangxian and was due to open new cancer centres in Chongqing and Qingdao by the end of 2020.
When COVID-19 hit China, Icon withdrew its operational training and clinical support teams to ensure their safety.
“One of the things I was most concerned about was whether this would impact on our ability to bring world-class care to those regions in China, where highly experienced cancer treatment teams are very difficult to resource,” says Mark Middleton, Icon Group’s Chief Executive Officer. “That’s the whole premise of what we’re doing and why partners want to work with us.”
Icon had to act quickly. The team rapidly rolled out a remote learning model with face-to-face online classrooms and an online self-paced learning platform in dual language. To replace in-person assessments, Icon deployed augmented reality headsets, allowing clinical experts in Australia to watch, guide and assess their China counterparts in real-time.
“I’ve seen some amazing work where Australian nurses are educating on the delivery of chemotherapy in Asia,” says Mark. “We’ve got quality assurance being done on our radiation therapy machines in China under supervision of a medical physicist here in Brisbane. The augmented reality headsets are a really powerful tool.”
Innovation without limits
Icon’s innovative response has been hugely successful, ensuring teams can continue to deliver training and high-quality care across China and the world. The opening of the new cancer centres remained on track, with Chongqing opening in November and Qingdao in December. Icon received excellent feedback from China-based team members, and the China and Australia teams are more connected than ever before.
“The ability of our team to pivot and deliver essential clinical education and quality assurance tools in a matter of months was simply outstanding,” says Mark. “Innovation has always been at the heart of Icon, and before COVID, we were already using remote capability. However, COVID made us take it a step further.”
Icon is now rolling out these tools and technologies across its network in Australia, Singapore and New Zealand, so teams can continue to support clinicians without travelling.
“I’ve been so proud of the Australian and Chinese teams, who have never lost sight of our vision and just found ways to get it done,” says Mark. “I’m lucky enough to be in a position to support our people, cheer them on and watch them do amazing work.”
“Moving forward, for us it’s about letting go of restraints that we always thought we were bound by and finding ways to move forward safely and with the same level of quality and focus on outstanding patient care.”