In the wake of FDA approval, HIFU Prostate Services (HPS) has been created to facilitate rapid adoption of focused ultrasound treatment for the prostate. We interviewed John Linn, Chief Executive Officer of HPS, to better understand the company’s plans for successful commercialization of FUS technology in the US, patient support and recruitment, and physician support and training. HPS is the first company to establish centers in the US offering SonaCare’s Sonablate HIFU technology.
Prior to starting HPS, John Linn spent more than 10 years with SonaCare Medical, where he was the fourth employee and head finance executive and was instrumental in recruiting physicians and setting up international treatment facilities and joint ventures in Canada and South America. In addition, Linn led more than $100 million of private equity and venture debt financings for SonaCare. While at SonaCare, he oversaw the human resources and information technology departments and served on the boards of UKHIFU, Ltd. and HIFU Canada Corporation. HPS is headquartered in Charlotte, NC.
Q: What is your company’s mission?
Our goal is to provide effective high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) treatment to men in the US that can eliminate the cancer, reduce treatment side effects, and can potentially improve quality of life. To that end, we facilitate the commercialization of US treatment sites by partnering with leading urologists to assist them in acquiring access to HIFU devices that will improve the quality of patient care. HPS also provides turnkey patient and physician support that includes services like patient education, scheduling, HIFU training, and payment assistance. We officially launched operations in October of last year, following the FDA approval of Sonablate for the ablation of prostate tissue.
Q: How does your relationship with urologists and treatment sites work, and who are your partners?
HPS partners with urology groups, independent physicians, and outpatient surgery centers around the country. We will have some hospital-based users, but our focus is on urological physician groups who treat a lot of prostate cancer. Many of our initial partners and first users are widely respected US urologists who have treated up to 300 prostate patients each with HIFU – outside the country until now.
In terms of our business model and our working relationships with each site, we purchase the devices from SonaCare as their client, and then we house the systems in surgery centers where our physician partners use them to treat patients. The physicians can own part of the equipment. We then assist the practice with all aspects of care including scheduling, billing and payment collection services, fielding calls from patients, coordination of medical records, nurses that understand HIFU, multi-tiered marketing support, patient education materials, etc.
Q: How soon do you expect to have HIFU devices up and running in the US, and where?
Centers are currently accepting HIFU patients in San Francisco, Louisville, Charlotte, and Los Angeles. The first treatment took place in early November 2015. Additional HIFU devices should be in place by the end of the Q1 2016 in Orlando, Houston, Minneapolis, and Columbus, with multiple additional locations planned for 2016. For a current list of treatment sites, patients can visit our website atwww.HIFUprostateservices.com or call us at 877-884-HIFU (4438).
Q: What specific plans do you have for patient education and services?
We certainly plan to have a national presence for patients and a robust national consumer advertising campaign. Along with the detailed patient website that we recently launched, we have a 1-800 number staffed by nurses with HIFU experience and knowledge who can field patient questions and direct them to centers in their area. The website also includes a treatment center map, patient-friendly materials explaining the physics behind HIFU, and recovery time information, etc. Our goal is to streamline the entire scheduling process for patients to make everything simple during what is often an anxious time. This includes providing educational materials, coordinating medical records, scheduling, pre- and post- treatment physician coordination, payment processing, and providing a financing option.
Q: Do you have any strategies for achieving reimbursement of the procedure for patients?
We’ve found that many men are willing to pay the $25,000 procedure cost, especially when they learn of the vastly improved side effect profile involving potency and incontinence. But we will certainly assist patients with reimbursement to the extent that we can. The manufacturers will be the data aggregators of all the user experience with the technology, and will drive the peer reviewed articles and medical publications needed to achieve reimbursement. However, HPS will be keeping a detailed registry of our US patients, and we will share data on patient outcomes.
Q: Will HPS offer any physician training?
We will. Some of the surgery centers housing our devices will serve as centers of excellence where other US urologists who may be unfamiliar with HIFU can come and observe cases and then start their own in-house training with the technology. Our number one goal is superior patient outcomes, and to that end we have intentionally partnered with some of the best HIFU urologists in the world who have agreed to help train and proctor other physicians at our centers. In addition, we will provide a technician who has done several hundred of these procedures to assist during the training process.
Q: Is there anything else you want our readers to know about your company?
We are excited about the FDA approval and to be able to offer this service here in the US. For the past 10 years or so, US physicians have had to travel off shore to use HIFU. With the recent emergence of focal treatments for prostate cancer in particular, HIFU is now ready for prime time. Using HIFU, we can fuse MRI imaging with ultrasound imaging and pinpoint the exact location for treatment versus cutting out or radiating the entire prostate, which eliminates the overtreatment that has caused a 50% impotence rate and up to 20% incontinence rate. It’s a great step forward for men, and HPS is pleased to be a part of this movement.