Every Day Counts – New Report Published on Cancer Care During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of cancer care, putting cancer patients at higher risk of poor outcomes. The “Every Day Counts – The impact of COVID-19 on patient access to oncology care in Europe” publication aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the significant impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients and their access to care. It also looks to generate key learnings for making cancer care delivery more resilient to disruptions and sustainability challenges. The publication was commissioned to Ventura by the EFPIA Oncology Platform and endorsed by a wide range of stakeholders, including Digestive Cancers Europe.
The report finds that COVID-19 has had an impact on every patient access milestone: clinical trials have been delayed or postponed, HTA and reimbursement decisions have been put on hold, and cancer diagnosis dropped by 50% in some countries in March 2020 compared to the previous year. Treatment and follow-up were severely impeded due to the risk of hospital visits, reduced availability of healthcare professionals, and fewer resources for blood transfusion and surgical care. Patients themselves were less prone to visit hospitals for their cancer care.
For cancer patients, this has meant additional hurdles to accessing care, on top of factors that were already delaying patient access in oncology prior to the pandemic.
The risk of further disruptions to health service delivery remains, due to SARS-CoV-2 mutations or future pandemics, along with the growing shortage of health personal needed to care for Europe’s ageing population. The challenge is to look beyond the current crisis and learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to make healthcare systems fit for the future.
Despite the challenges, there have been some positive features of Europe’s response to the pandemic, including the adoption of digital health and greater agility in the development and approval of innovative solutions. Stakeholders have identified six recommendations to improve access to cancer care for the future these are:
- Clear the cancer backlog now, using innovative practices which emerged during the pandemic
- Maintain the proven agility of R&D and Marketing Authorisation processes
- Continue the intensified European collaboration in clinical assessment to use HTA resources more efficiently after the pandemic
- Continue the adoption of digital health to increase remote care and use healthcare resources more efficiently after the pandemic
- Maintain and build adaptive surge capacity to be ready for future disruptions to cancer care
- Safeguard cancer budgets as a critical enabler for improving continuity, efficiency, and sustainability of cancer care