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With COVID-19 subsiding Bristol Myers Squibb and GRYT Health are evolving the patient advocacy partnership they formed in response to the pandemic, with the emphasis now being placed on broadening their goals beyond the coronavirus.
As part of the changes, the initiative, which was known as the COVID Advocacy Exchange, will now become just the Advocacy Exchange. The initiative is meant to build an enduring community built to support patient advocacy organizations by providing access to educational resources, encouraging ongoing dialogue, and sharing best practices among participants.
“While the pandemic and its effects continue to be felt, we are moving into a new chapter with The Exchange. The new platform is a natural extension of our desire to expand educational resources available to patient advocacy groups so we can better serve the advocacy community’s needs, both now and in the foreseeable future,” said Cathy Traz, Executive Director, Patient Advocacy, Bristol Myers Squibb.
The Advocacy Exchange is a virtual platform created to unite advocacy organizations, patients, and industry leaders, enabling the exchange of information among users. It is a global collaboration, co-created, co-led, and “always-on” to foster meaningful partnerships across disease areas to improve patients’ lives and positively impact their livelihood.
“As we engage in conversations with the global patient advocacy community, we hope the Advocacy Exchange will allow us to create lasting relationships. By adding to the fuel that drives advocacy efforts – information around issue areas of great importance and the passion for change – we are hopeful we can make a difference in the lives of patients around the world,” said David Craig, GRYT Health Co-Founder and CEO.
The COVID Advocacy Exchange was launched in May 2020 at the height of the coronavirus outbreak and planned to invite close to 100 global and local advocacy organizations across several disease areas to convene virtually in their common pursuit of supporting patients with serious diseases who are simultaneously navigating the pandemic.
Despite the evolution of the exchange, Bristol Myers Squibb and GRYT Health said the Advocacy Exchange will keep key elements of the COVID Advocacy Exchange, including live virtual sessions, working group discussions, and the provision of on-demand resources, all available 24/7, along with new features such as a newsroom, searchable resource library and a chatroom for working groups.
In the future, the Advocacy Exchange will add updates such as an opt-in member directory, “Ask an Advocate” forum, a method for participants to submit ideas, and the creation of dedicated social channels to support community engagement, which will go online soon.
A statement explained that the establishment of working groups earlier this year was an example of how the Advocacy Exchange had already responded to the community’s desires. These groups focus on addressing issues related to racial, ethnic, and other health disparities, access to care, the patient voice and patient-focused drug development, and the future of advocacy.
“Together, we have created a safe space to voice our opinions, share insights and learn from one another. I am excited about the potential of our working groups and the broader Advocacy Exchange to create tangible outcomes that will facilitate positive societal changes,” said Sheila Thorne, Racial & Ethnic Health and Healthcare Disparities Working Group lead and President and CEO, Multicultural Healthcare Marketing Group LLC.
The Advocacy Exchange helps nonprofit advocacy groups from all disease areas — including those BMS doesn’t cover — to share resources and information and connect socially.
FiercePharma reported that when the exchange was set up when travel was stopped due to stay-at-home orders and advocates and key stakeholders were no longer able to get together in person. BMS reached out to GRYT, a digital health organization it worked with in 2019 on a virtual cancer congress.
“In the very beginning, we did not even think beyond the three-month time frame because we all thought COVID would be long gone by then,” Traz was quoted as saying.. As it became clear the pandemic would continue, she went back to BMS leadership and asked to keep the exchange going.
The two companies plan to keep the platform alive for as long as it’s needed. Between May 2020 and April 2021, some 31,000 visitors from 139 countries visited the website.