You don’t need us to tell you that the last few years have been a challenging time for the global health system. You’ve probably picked it up from the headlines with every update – the lack of hospital beds, the deluge of news and complex medical information, and the refusal of patients from yearly physical exams, psychiatric visits, and even chemotherapy treatments.
This is where Patient Advocacy Groups, or PAGs, stepped up to meet the growing needs of patients. Patient advocacy groups are organizations that provide education, resources, support services, and more for patients and their caregivers. In fact, PAGs play an all-too-important role in bridging the gap between patients and the medical system.
Patient advocacy groups around the world have long been a source of community and patient support. Early in a pandemic, if a patient was unable to get the care they needed due to lockdown, isolation, or even loss of income, or if they were overwhelmed by obscure medical advice, PAG can serve as a touchstone for navigating their treatment. . Fast forward to the present and the demand for the extra support that PAG provides is not going to give up. Here’s a look at how several PAGs, along with corporate partners such as pfizerupdated their programs and resources to meet the challenges and needs of today’s patients.
Modern artificial intelligence and mental health
Mood Disorders Society of Canada (MDSC) is a PAG that works to give Canadians diagnosed with mood disorders better access to treatment. Pfizer has a long history of working with MDSC, but when the pandemic hit, Pfizer stepped in to help MDSC use cutting-edge technology to combat rising anxiety, burnout, depression, and PTSD. The result was WORLD, a chatbot that uses artificial intelligence to provide patients with information about mental health services. According to Dave Gallson, National Executive Director of MDSC, MIRA has provided invaluable assistance during the quarantine. “MIRA has used technology to help Canadians find mental health resources that have been pre-screened,” he said. “We were able to meet people where they were and when they needed it most.”
Updated digital tools for cancer information and treatment
Pfizer is also proud to be a partner Educational Council for Prostate Diseases (PCEC), the leading PAG for early detection of prostate cancer. When the pandemic began, PCEC and Pfizer jointly updated their digital toolkit to include information about the coronavirus and updated the resource to fit the audience of pantumor patients. With the help of more than 20 advocacy partners, Pfizer and PCEC developed a digital resource that provided a wide range of cancer patients with information about COVID-19, as well as tips on how to use the new telehealth system. PCEC Vice President and Director of Early Detection and Informing Programs Rene Savickas believes these digital tools have helped patients feel in control of their health during difficult times. “Our resources have provided vital information during the massive transition from in-person visits to virtual doctors,” she said. “By helping patients use telemedicine visits, they were able to feel more confident in their access to treatment.”
Practical help with COVID-19 for low-income groups of the population
doctors for you (DFY) is a non-profit organization working to improve public health around the world. He especially invests in advancing health equity, and his efforts include everything from disaster relief to COVID-19 support. As the second wave of COVID-19 hit India and there was a severe shortage of hospital beds and oxygen, Pfizer supported DFY’s work to set up a care center at the Yamuna Sports Complex in New Delhi.
The new facility offered medical and mental health care, as well as yoga and games to help patients cope with their fear. In addition, Pfizer and DFY have jointly created a special space for children infected with the virus. Many have praised the center’s hands-on care, and DFY President Dr. Rajat Jain believes it’s because patients have been put first. “The voice of the patient can open the door to reforming healthcare towards better quality of care,” he said, moving away from the traditional “doctor knows best” mentality.
Informing and innovating the future
PAGs not only help patients advocate for their healthcare needs during public health crises like COVID-19, but they also help shape the future of public healthcare. These advocacy groups defend the patient’s point of view and offer valuable first-hand information to the entire medical community, from healthcare providers to public health agencies and pharmaceutical companies. Through collaboration and partnership, PAG is voicing the needs of the community, improving treatment access and outcomes, and providing critical support to patients when they need it most.