Site staffing shortages led another clinical service provider, IQVIA, to reduce its revenue forecast for the year recently and Icon is subject to some of the same forces as its peer. Icon CEO Steve Cutler used the company’s third-quarter conference call to explain that labor issues at sites have had “some impact” on the pace at which the backlog of business is converted to revenues.
Icon is “hoping and expecting” that the site staffing issues have weakened but, either way, the company has a plan for how it can stop labor shortages at study centers from slowing its trials and the realization of revenues.
“We haven't seen the sort of disruption from a resource point of view at our Accellacare sites, and we do believe there's an opportunity there to push more trials through our Accellacare sites and to expand that,” said Cutler. “All of the people in our Accellacare sites are dedicated to us and are dedicated to research. They don't have a pull to other more standard clinical work.”
Accellacare, a part of Icon’s business, is a network of more than 100 active research sites in six countries. Icon launched the network in 2020, and expanded it the following year, as part of a push to increase recruitment and retention and accelerate study start-up.
The network is delivering on its objectives, according to Cutler, with the CEO telling investors that the recruitment rates at Accellacare are “20%, 30%, 40% above” those of the sites Icon works with on a more ad hoc basis. Cutler also sees opportunities to mitigate the impact of the challenges faced by sites by providing additional support to centers outside of Accellacare that are particularly important for study enrollment.
Icon’s internal labor access is less of an issue, with Cutler not seeing it as “being a rate limiter for backlog conversion.” The position reflects the view that the current CRO labor market is in line with the situation in the past.
“It's a challenging market and all of that sort of thing. I don't think that's got any significantly easier, but it hasn't got any worse either. And so we see access to labor and access to people who can do the work internally as not being a factor that's going to hurt us in the short to medium term,” said Cutler. Icon’s employee retention improved each month through 2022.