AC Health seeks to ease the financial burden on Filipino cancer patients | Healthcare Asia Magazine
, Philippines
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AC Health seeks to ease the financial burden on Filipino cancer patients

US$55m invested in building multi-disciplinary cancer care hospital.

Although cancer is among the top causes of death in the Philippines, its treatment remains unaffordable for many, with an estimated minimum cost of P1m in the first year of diagnosis. Ayala Corporation (AC) Health plans to address this by building its cancer specialty centre in the country, the Healthway Cancer Care Hospital.

AC Health CEO Paolo Borromeo told Healthcare Asia that they invested US$55m (P3b) to build the centre offering a complete range of cancer services, from screening, diagnosis, treatment, to post-cancer care.

“Being able to create cancer screening programs more broadly in our clinics, our other hospitals, and our digital platform, would allow us to screen properly and refer patients as needed to our cancer hospital,” said Borromeo.

Jimmy Ysmael, CEO of AC Health’s general hospitals and clinics group, Healthway Medical Network, will lead the Healthway Cancer Care Hospital. Other top officials are Nona Ong, chief operating officer of Healthway Cancer Hospital, Dr. Manuel Francisco “Ramy” Roxas, medical director, and Dr. Conrado “Gary” Lorenzo, medical advisory council chairman.

Borromeo said there will be a soft launch in July 2023 whilst the cancer hospital’s full launch is eyed in September 2023.

Expensive equipment vs affordable cancer care

The 100-bed cancer specialty hospital in Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines will offer a range of equipment for radiation oncology to surgery, chemotherapy, and palliative care. The hospital plans to install 18 chemotherapy infusion units, two linear accelerators (LINACs), and diagnostic and imaging machines.

Cutting-edge equipment at the hospital was purchased with the help of key partners Varian and Siemens Healthineers’ subsidiary, Varian – Cancer Treatment Services International, which is an established name in cancer diagnostics and treatment. 

AC Health joined hands with Varian-CTSI in 2020 to develop and operate the Healthway Cancer Care Hospital and provide oncology services.

When asked if it is truly feasible to bring down treatment costs while investing in the latest technologies and innovations, Borromeo emphasized that they will leverage the AC Health ecosystem and partnerships with other providers to deliver the best value for patients. 

“Improving patient outcomes will always be at the center of everything we do in our cancer hospital, so we are constantly finding ways to expand options for cancer treatment. For instance, we are providing alternative and affordable options for chemotherapy and [cancer] medication by leveraging our pharmaceutical business and bringing in biosimilars and generic equivalents, which could significantly cut the cost of chemotherapy,” said Borromeo.

Cancer treatment outlook 

Cancer is the third leading cause of death in the country, according to Philippine Statistics Authority. On top of this, six out of 10 Filipinos die without consulting their physicians, a JCO Global Oncology journal showed.

But with developments such as the implementation of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, signed in 2019, AC Health believes more awareness and action in addressing gaps in cancer treatment can be created.

“More broadly, we hope that initiatives like ours and other investments in [oncology] will lead to better screening, lead to better treatment, and hopefully, help mitigate the effects of cancer on the Philippines and our society,” said Borromeo.

To cite a recent investment in oncology, the Marcos administration has approved the public-private partnership project for the Philippine General Hospital to establish a cancer centre. News reports said the project’s P6b funding will provide 300 beds.  

On the Philippine healthcare outlook, Borromeo said he sees more opportunities to decrease out-of-pocket spending and resolve geographical disparities that make access to healthcare services difficult.

As chairman of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) Healthcare Team to the President, Borromeo said he sees developments in the national and local government’s goal to improve healthcare for all Filipinos.

AC Health innovations

At present, the Healthway Medical Network currently has 10 multi-specialty clinics, two industrial clinics, one ambulatory and surgical centre, 200 corporate clinics, and four full-service hospitals. 

AC Health’s portfolio also includes Generika Drugstore, which offers generic retail pharmacies and now has about 750 outlets nationwide. The drugstore offers additional services such as free blood pressure monitoring, affordable fasting blood sugar tests, and random blood sugar tests.

Other pharmacy partnerships include IE Medica and MedEthix, a major pharmaceutical importer and distributor.

The company also revamped its health tech super-app KonsultaMD The app offers online consultations, medicine delivery, and clinic and diagnostic booking.

Bain & Company said patients in the Philippines and other Asian countries continue to use telemedicine to access healthcare. However, experts noted that telemedicine adoption may lag in Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines compared to Singapore, India, and Indonesia.

Through its ecosystem approach, AC Health envisions providing every Filipino with integrated and seamless healthcare for cancer treatment and beyond. 

“Creating screening programs more broadly in our clinics, our other hospitals, and our digital platform would allow us to screen properly and refer patients as needed to our cancer hospital and vice versa. Our ecosystem enables AC Health to be present at all levels of care,” said Borromeo.

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