The Lynx Group
Association for Value-Based Care

Cancer Care Patient Advocacy Perspectives

Conference Correspondent

During the November 11 session of the Association for Value-Based Cancer Care (AVBCC) 10th Annual Summit, Lauren Barnes, MHS, Senior Vice President of Market Access at Blueprint Medicines, moderated a panel of experts who discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with cancer and how members of the healthcare community can advocate for their patients during the ongoing crisis.

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was recommended that patients not attend cancer screenings to prevent an at-risk population from being exposed to COVID-19; this has led to a decrease in cancer diagnoses.

When the time comes that it is recommended for these patients to go back in for their screenings, nurse navigators will need to serve as advocates to ensure that patients are comfortable with the safety measures in place, said Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG, Co-Founder of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators.

“According to a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services survey, of the Medicare beneficiaries that sought treatment for non-COVID related illnesses, 21% didn’t actually get treatment. Some due to fear and some because of decreased capacity and closed clinics,” stated Debra Patt, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President of Policy and Strategic Initiatives at Texas Oncology.

According to Patricia Goldsmith, CEO of CancerCare, the fear of contracting COVID-19 is not the only thing keeping patients from seeing their physicians. She said that patients are also following an “ignorance is bliss” way of living. They simply cannot afford to go into a screening and come out with a cancer diagnosis. Many are facing financial difficulties resulting from layoffs or loss of insurance. Others are adjusting to changes in their way of life. They may now find themselves as a main caregiver or the sole earner of the household, or they may have children attending school from home.

When a vaccine is finally approved, patient advocates will play an important role in advocating for patients. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP, former Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, said that vaccination has been an ongoing issue in the cancer community, not only for the patient, but for those around the patient. Many questions remain regarding the efficacy of a vaccine for patients with cancer, Dr Lichtenfeld noted.

Ms Shockney added that oncology nurses reportedly have the lowest adherence rate for cancer screenings, and that healthcare professionals will not be able to efficiently advocate for their patients if they are not compliant in getting the vaccine themselves.

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