WASHINGTON DC [June 17, 2022] — The Comprehensive National Cancer Control Network® (NCCN®) today convened an oncology policy summit in Washington DC on the theme of creating a workplace that includes support for people with cancer and their caregivers. The program, which also featured a virtual attendance option, looked at how workplace norms and expectations have changed in recent years, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The conversation also examined the current legal and political landscape, as well as how generational shifts and the growing number of cancer survivors in the workforce are driving cultural shifts across the United States.
“We need a cooperative and flexible approach from employers, payers, providers and health systems to ensure high quality and equitable care for all our patients and their carers, meeting their needs with minimal disruption to their work and income,” said John Sweetenham, MD, FRCP, FACP, FASCO, NCCN Board Chair and Professor of Medicine, Associate Director of Clinical Affairs, UT Southwestern Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The pandemic has led to the transformation of virtual cancer care and renewed interest in interventions such as home infusion of cancer treatment. As the home becomes the place of work for even more people since COVID, we need employment and leave benefits as well as regulatory policies that allow us to support patients at home.
Panelist Rebecca V. Nellis, MP, Executive Director, Cancer and Careers shared the results of a 2021 Cancer and Careers Survey / Harris Poll. It found that 74% of employed patients and survivors said working during treatment helped or helped them cope and 75% of patients and survivors surveyed said work helped or helped with their treatment and recovery.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about working after a cancer diagnosis,” Nellis explained. “Employers may think that people don’t want to work or can’t work, or that providing accommodations is expensive, and that housing one person means making changes for every employee. The truth is that working after a cancer diagnosis is more than possible. Access to workplace advice and supportive policies makes it easier. But it’s also a very individual decision with many factors to consider, including treatment plan, personal needs and preferences, disclosure and confidentiality considerations, type of work, company culture and team, etc.
“It’s a win-win when employers do the right thing for patients and their families, especially those dealing with cancer,” said Debbie Weir, Executive Director, Cancer Support Community. “It’s important that employers put the needs of their employees at the center of their benefits decisions. Limiting or restricting access to quality care in a timely manner to reduce coverage costs is not good for the patient or the company.
Keynote speaker Lynn Zonakis, BA, BSN, Principal, Zonakis Consultingformer general manager of health strategy and resources for Delta Air Lines, also discussed the employer benefits of fostering a supportive atmosphere.
“Managing cancer and providing services that support ill employees and dependents, associated time off, return to work, emotional health, survivorship and end of life is not only the right thing to do, but reduces ultimately the costs,” says Zonakis.
“Business leaders at all levels should be empowered to support their workforce,” agreed Angela Mysliwiec, MD, Senior Medical Director, WellMed.
Inform employers and employees
Speakers explored some of the knowledge gaps and misunderstandings that can lead to bad experiences for everyone. Employers don’t always know what kind of support their employees need, and employees are often unaware of all the resources that are available to them.
“Employers and payers may not know how to answer their employees’ tough questions, or what they can do to direct them to trusted resources that support informed and sound decision-making,” said Warren Smedley, DSc (candidate), MSHA, MSHQS, Vice President, The Kinetix Group. “NCCN has worked hard to develop the NCCN Employer Toolkit, which is a trusted source of information to help prioritize strategies and tactics that support the highest quality of care, as well as the most more responsible resources for employers potentially impacted by cancer diagnoses in their worker(s).
“It’s so important for people with cancer and their caregivers to understand all of their employment rights and available benefits, so they can make informed decisions about the best path forward,” said Joanna Fawzy Morales, Esq., Executive Director, Cancer Triage, who delivered another keynote address on the political landscape to support patients, survivors and carers at work. “While federal and state job protections exist, there is a significant lack of awareness of these protections. There are also loopholes in the law that patients and caregivers can step through. There are many opportunities to fill these gaps in order to improve the quality of life for patients and their families and to mitigate the financial toxicity of a cancer diagnosis.
Many speakers focused on health equity issues and how they can relate to workplace practices.
“Exploring opportunities for the workplace to be more inclusive and accessible to all cancer patients, survivors and caregivers will help build trusting relationships, informed care and equity/health literacy awareness “, said Randy Jones, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor of Nursing and Associate Dean for Partner Development and Engagement, University of Virginia School of Nursing. “There is a need for clinicians to provide simple, non-judgmental information with little or no medical jargon when interacting with patients, so that patients and caregivers can understand what is happening with their own or those of their healthcare. of their relatives. Improving racial and ethnic diversity within the oncology workforce is important for increasing equity in the care cancer patients receive, as well as potentially improving the patient-provider relationship.
Member of the panel Fran Castellow, MSEd, President, Operations, Patient Advocate Foundation was part of a conversation about benefit design and the role of policy makers. Speakers also referenced data that shows increased productivity (and ultimately retention) when employees have access to quality care, testing and treatment in a timely manner.
The summit featured Clifford Goodman, PhD, The Lewin Groupas a moderator. NCCN President and CEO Robert W. Carlson, MDpresented the program while NCCN Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer Wui-Jin Koh, MD provided some final thoughts.
The NCCN political program will hold its next summit on September 16, 2022, focused on reducing the burden of cancer through prevention and early detection. Visit NCCN.org/summit for more information, and join the conversation with the hashtag #NCCNPolicy.
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About the Comprehensive National Cancer Network
The Comprehensive National Cancer Network® (NCCN®) is a non-profit alliance of leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research and education. NCCN is dedicated to improving and facilitating quality, effective, equitable, and accessible cancer care so that all patients can live a better life. The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) provide transparent, evidence-based, expert consensus recommendations for cancer treatment, prevention, and support services; they are the recognized standard for clinical guidance and policy in cancer management and the most comprehensive and frequently updated clinical practice guidelines available in all fields of medicine. The NCCN Guidelines for Patients® provide expert information on cancer treatment to inform and empower patients and caregivers, with support from the NCCN Foundation®. The NCCN is also progressing continuing education, global initiatives, Politicsand research collaboration and publication in oncology. Visit NCCN.org for more information and follow NCCN on Facebook @NCCNorginstagram @NCCNorg, and Twitter @NCCN.