With pandemic easing, Bristol Myers Squibb takes its GRYT-partnered digital advocacy group beyond COVID-19

As many COVID-inspired pharma efforts taper off, at least one initiative born during the pandemic is going strong—and dropping the pandemic moniker to evolve even further.

Bristol Myers Squibb’s patient advocacy partnership with GRYT Health is changing its name from the COVID Advocacy Exchange to simply the Advocacy Exchange. The name change shows that the global online service platform for patient advocates and patients is moving from a COVID-19 resource to an everyday one.

“As we're entering this new chapter, we wanted to evolve, as people were a little COVID fatigued. And a lot of the issues that we're talking about on the exchange aren't really specific to COVID-19 anymore," said Cathy Traz, executive director, BMS patient advocacy.

Today, the issues have broadened and so have the goals. The Advocacy Exchange wants to become an enduring community for the long term, Traz said.

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Advocacy Exchange helps nonprofit advocacy groups from all disease areas—including those BMS doesn’t cover—to share resources and information and connect socially.

Aiming to be more than just a financial contributor, BMS talked to the advocacy groups on the exchange to find out what they wanted. One ask that's already been answered with new content? Live sessions from experts covering a variety of topics pertinent to the groups.

The original COVID-labeled site launched in May 2020 as travel stopped 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.

This time, the two companies worked so well together, they opened the exchange site within three weeks.

“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 said. As it became clear the pandemic would continue, she went back to BMS leadership and asked to keep the exchange going.

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BMS initially worked directly with the groups to get the word out but now uses social media and digital channels to attract interest. People can also sign up for email notifications.

BMS and GRYT are planning to keep the platform alive for as long as it's needed, Traz said. Between May 2020 and April 2021, some 31,000 visitors from 139 countries visited the website.