19/12/2014 - 11:49

Ionic makes Vital investment

19/12/2014 - 11:49

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The growing uptake of preventative medicine has prompted Azure Capital co-founder John Poynton to re-enter the healthcare market.

Ionic makes Vital investment
GROUND FLOOR: John Poynton with Vital Conversations’ Peta Slocombe. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The growing uptake of preventative medicine has prompted Azure Capital co-founder John Poynton to re-enter the healthcare market.

Mr Poynton has teamed up with fellow Azure co-founder Geoff Rasmussen, West Coast Eagles player Beau Waters, and Nedlands-based urologist Tom Shannon to create a new healthcare company called Ionic Health.

The company is focused on conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and preventable cancers, and has opened its first clinic in West Perth.

Alongside its own branded clinics, Ionic has invested in existing mental health company Vital Conversations, which was founded in 2009.

The new venture comes five years after another of Mr Poynton’s investments – Prime Health Group – was sold to listed company Sonic Healthcare.

“I’ve always been interested in the healthcare space so, in discussions with various people I’ve always made it clear that I’ve been interested in getting back into the healthcare space,” Mr Poynton told Business News.

The Vital Conversations investment gives the Ionic Health group a 60 per cent share in the business.

Founder Peta Slocombe said much of Vital Conversations’ growth could be attributed to corporate leaders’ awareness of the need to ensure the mental and physical health of employees.

However, during the past 12 to 18 months, she said, demand had been driven even higher by executives becoming more aware of their own ‘unhealthy’ habits, and the strategies available to prevent mental health problems.

“We work with people who often present in a particularly bad place, from executive stress right through to people who are doing very well but recognise that they’re living life at a pretty fine point,” Ms Slocombe said.

“They want to get more insights into how they can manage so they don’t go into a tough place.

“Executives in particular can just normalise not sleeping because they can’t switch themselves off, and normalise this constant low-grade irritability – all the sorts of stuff that we know are either early onset or low grade [symptoms] moving towards something bigger in terms of depression and anxiety.

“Executives feel like that’s just what they signed up for and they don’t necessarily get the support that they need.”

Vital Conversations provides both personal coaching and clinical counselling for specific mental health issues.

Ms Slocombe said the demand from executives needing even just a conversation over the phone had increased to the point where it accounted for 50 per cent of the company’s 300-plus clinical sessions per month.

The partnership with Ionic Health has already enabled Vital Conversations to relocate to a new purpose-built facility in Subiaco, with an additional five consulting rooms and increase staff from four to 11.

Ms Slocombe said the investment from corporate identities such as Mr Poynton would also enable the executive-focused side of the business to grow.

“They’re a really good intersection for credibility with the corporate sector … they see a lot and they have a lot of people around them that are finding life stressful and tough at times,” she said.

Aside from being a good business opportunity, Mr Poynton said the investment in Vital Conversations was meeting an important need.

“We’re, in a sense, embryonically starting this health business and we see that mental health is a very important part of that,” he said.

“There’s an increasing recognition that companies have a responsibility and duty of care, so we think that that area can be better served by a bigger Vital Conversations.”

 

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