Opening a proton therapy center

Opening a proton therapy center

September 19, 2016
Cyclotron being installed
at the St. Petersburg
Proton Therapy Center in Russia
From the September 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Dr. Jörn Meissner

Imagine you are getting ready to cut the ribbon on a brand new proton therapy facility. Simply providing this life-saving cancer treatment to patients who might not otherwise have access to it is enough to guarantee the success of this business venture — right? Not so fast. Most new proton therapy centers have to overcome daunting challenges in order to even make it out of the ,starting gate, and the difference between failure and success is in the details. To overcome these challenges, it is a good idea to define key performance indicators (KPIs) at the outset of your business plan and manage the developing project to optimize them.

Perhaps the most important KPI is evaluating the potential number of patients in your region who are likely to need your service. That doesn’t just mean examining the rates of certain treatment indications. It also means factoring in the competition. In addition to nearby proton therapy facilities, there are other oncology disciplines, ranging from surgery and chemotherapy to other radiation oncology treatments. When turf wars arise it limits referrals, so newcomers to the area should pursue alliances with local providers and insurance companies, to ensure those organizations recognize the benefit of referring their existing patient population to proton therapy.


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In some cases, this means educating peers on the value of the treatment. The media often report on the high cost of proton therapy treatment and, naturally, public opinion is influenced by this. Showing them the growing body of medical evidence illustrating the cost and outcome benefits of proton therapy is an important step in making sure your fellow physicians understand the value of the service you’re bringing to the community.

The next step is choosing the number of treatment rooms you will need. Historically, multi-room facilities were the standard, but now single-room centers are an emerging trend, particularly in countries like the U.S., where overall access to proton therapy is relatively more abundant than in other countries.

While the single-room return on investment will be lower than that of a multi-room, the investment itself is also lower. In some cases, a single-room might even fit into an existing building. Multi-room facilities allow for treating more patients, having several clinical partners and setting up dedicated rooms (for pediatric patients, for example). In these facilities you can also plan for relatively efficient capacity increases by adding equipment to a still empty vault.

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