News & Perspectives
Partnering to improve cancer care in the age of COVID-19

Leaders from BMS and the oncology advocacy community discuss the immediate and long-term impacts for cancer patients as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

September 07, 2020     

Across the world, people are joining together during the COVID-19 pandemic with the common goal of helping those most vulnerable. The cancer community faces unique challenges, with patients having trouble accessing treatment and existing resources stretched thin.

Leaders from BMS and the oncology advocacy community

Recognizing the impact the pandemic has had on the community, Bristol Myers Squibb partnered with GRYT Health to launch a new, virtual platform that is helping to unite advocacy organizations, patients and industry in the exchange of information. The platform offers 24/7 access to COVID-19-related materials from advocacy organizations and third-party experts through the on-demand virtual exhibitor space. The live meeting areas on the platform host weekly interactive sessions with guest speakers to address timely needs for the cancer community that are being exacerbated by the pandemic. As part of these efforts, Bristol Myers Squibb has engaged with many advocates across the cancer community to better understand how the company can best serve and support patients, caregivers, and health care providers during this especially trying time. Through these conversations, Bristol Myers Squibb has been able to collect important insights into how the landscape of cancer care has changed in recent months, and has provided a new way for people to come together during and beyond COVID-19.

Read more below for first-hand perspectives on how we can all overcome and learn from these unprecedented times. 

Insight #1: Members of the oncology community – including healthcare providers, advocates, nurses, patients, and caregivers – are looking for opportunities to collaborate to effect lasting change during and beyond the pandemic. 

“We have a responsibility as a community to share these ideas, these solutions that are emerging from this crisis around the community... No one can do it on their own… we need to pool together to understand that longer-term planning.”

-- Dr. Cary Adams, CEO, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)

“I can only see finding solutions with every part of the healthcare system and working together to make that happen.” 

-- Ester Banque, senior vice president and head, Intercontinental Commercial, Bristol Myers Squibb

Insight #2: Establishing and maintaining a trusting relationship between patients and healthcare providers remains as important as ever and must be fostered in new ways. 

“There are unique challenges on both the patient and provider side … On the patient side, it is the anxiety and the personal connection… On the provider side, it's really the ability to collaborate … things around care coordination, how do we make sure the right entities participate.”

-- Sandeep Pulim, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Bluestream Health

“Trust is critical. When you are talking about health inequities… it is important to foster trust...if patients don’t already have the trust embedded with a physician or even if they do, shuttling patients around can be really detrimental…being mindful of finding ways to connect...”

-- Adriana Zupa-Fernandez, lead, Global People and Business Resource Group, Bristol Myers Squibb

Insight #3: Cancer patients may be less likely to go in for routine screenings or follow-ups in the current environment, leading to missed or late diagnoses. 

“The only reason that I’ve been able to make it this far without my tumors turning into cancer again is because I was able to find them early. It is important to know that if you are experiencing symptoms, you need to go to your doctor.”

-- Jessica Valence, Colorectal Cancer Survivor, Patient Advocate, Director of Operations, GRYT Health

“We’ve seen a huge increase in telemedicine. For most cancer screenings, you’ll still need to go into the office. In that case you can call and ask about the precautions they have put in place.”

-- Lisa Berry Edwards, Managing Director, External Affairs, Prevent Cancer Foundation

Insight #4: The pandemic is bringing existing health inequities to the forefront.  

“I think it is a big wake up call for us all. We always knew there were disparities and it was recognized in many ways but now with COVID it has become so much more obvious.”

-- Eleanor M. Perfetto, Ph.D., M.S., Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, National Health Council (NHC)

“We are all humans and we live in one place, and we are together in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat.”

-- Gaetano Crupi, president and general manager, Bristol Myers Squibb Brazil

Insight #5: COVID is impacting healthcare systems and patient groups that were already constrained and operating with limited resources. 

“We are hearing from [advocates] that they are undergoing a tremendous amount of stress… the usual venues they would use to raise money, for example, galas or fun runs or walks… are of course being canceled. They are very quickly shifting to virtual events, but they cannot make up very quickly the shortfall.”

-- Eleanor M. Perfetto, Ph.D., M.S., Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, National Health Council (NHC)

“As the pandemic is increasing in the developing world where most of our patients live, their access to care… severe underreporting of illness. We are going back 20 years from this setback.”

-- Lily Cannon, Operations Manager, Thalassaemia International Federation (TIF)

Insight #6: The pandemic provides an opportunity to reduce the stigma around living with cancer. 

“In my chemo days I incorporated many practical ways to minimize germs. Now, on top of worrying about getting a job with good insurance before my next scan… looks can be deceiving… invisible illnesses… we hold additional stress on a daily basis... in the middle of a pandemic with no vaccine… we need to live with purpose.”

-- Megan-Claire Chase, Cancer Survivor, Blogger & Patient Advocate

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