June Halper, chief executive officer of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers, provides an inside perspective on MS education during MS Awareness Month.
In the United States, nearly 1 million individuals are living with multiple sclerosis (MS). However, it wasn’t too long ago that those two words—multiple sclerosis—evoked visions of unrelenting disability, loss of function, sadness, and isolation. Today a more positive perspective has emerged with increased access to education and awareness of this chronic disease along with the approval of more and more disease-modifying medications and a philosophical shift in the medical and healthcare approach to patient care and management.
Treatment is also becoming more personalized based on individual characteristics and symptoms rather than based on a meaningless list or chart of descriptors
Although the diagnosis can still be challenging, early diagnosis is crucial, as referral to a specialist and appropriate therapy may be able to slow or prevent further damage to the neurologic system. The McDonald criteria, developed within the past two decades, is updated regularly to facilitate the diagnosis of MS within days, rather than weeks or months. With its neuroimaging criteria to confirm the patient’s diagnosis, the McDonald criteria can quickly confirm the patient's diagnosis and facilitate prompt and appropriate treatment.
In less than 50 years, the mantra surrounding MS went from “diagnosis and goodbye” to “treat and beat it” thanks to the increase in disease-modifying therapies (DMTs). Though DMTs remain the cornerstone of treatment, new drugs for MS are constantly emerging, including not only DMTs but also agents that may repair myelin or provide neuroprotection—suggesting that the future holds greater promise for patients with MS.
At the same time that new therapies for MS are emerging, changes in the healthcare landscape are ongoing. The baby boomer generation is aging, with too few physicians to care for them, and healthcare reform and economics are influencing staffing options. Moreover, the complexity of medicine is driving the need for the provision of patient-centered care by collaborative teams.
This new philosophy and approach to MS care recognizes the importance of the patient’s voice—my disease, my symptoms, and my responsibility—and expands with the concept of partnerships. With an evidence-based understanding of MS, the role of the MS clinician has been transformed from a supportive, educative role to that of a highly-skilled, knowledgeable, and specialized professional who is part of a multi-disciplinary team dedicated to a patient’s continuing care.MS specialists impart knowledge about medications, wellness activities, reduction of risks and side effects, and facilitate self-management to promote sustained adherence.
The complexity and personalization of MS make it more important than ever for patients, family, and the general public to become educated and aware of this dynamic chronic illness as much as the medical community. MS Awareness Month is an important date on the calendar for elevating MS and all that it entails, and for providing accurate and helpful information.
ABOUT CONSORTIUM OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS CENTERS (CMSC)
The CMSC includes a professional network of 13,500 healthcare clinicians and scientists worldwide. Its membership represents the full spectrum of MS healthcare professionals: physicians, nursing professionals, advanced practice clinicians, pharmacists, rehabilitation and mental health professionals, researchers, and patient advocates. The work of the CMSC directly influences the quality of care for hundreds of thousands of people living with MS. The CMSC Annual Meeting, the leading research and educational conference for MS healthcare professionals in North America, will take place as a hybrid event, October 25-28, 2021 in Orlando, FL. For more information visit: www.mscare.org