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Multiple Sclerosis Care in Diverse Patient Populations: Challenges and Solutions - Episode 9

Patient Education in Ethnically Diverse and Underrepresented MS Patients

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Regina Berkovich, MD, PhD, comments on the role of patient education in engaging ethnically diverse and underrepresented patient populations with multiple sclerosis in their treatment plans.

Jeffrey Dunn, MD: There’s pain that’s out there. There’s a sense of being excluded from the medical discovery pathway. For people and individuals who feel as if they’re off track and not wanted let’s say. How do you reach out and let them know they’re every bit is important to you personally as a physician and to your practice and to the overall mission as anyone else under God’s umbrella?

Regina Berkovich, MD, PhD: Right there is that pain, and frequently that is the biggest block on helping these patients to make a decision to be part of the clinical trial, and we just have to understand it and deal with it. Trying patiently to explain that the global knowledge is extremely important and for us to know what may work for the ethnic and racial minorities in multiple sclerosis [MS], this very thing that we’re trying to enroll. There will be some patients who will never reach a big part of the clinical trial and it’s important to recognize that.

Jeffrey Dunn, MD: Let me pull back just a bit as we finish up this module. We’ve talked about clinical trials but trust is critical in a patient being willing to accept a prescription or a recommendation that you provide them and some of the same dynamics apply. You might suggest a certain immunosuppressive therapy. Patients are going to be aware that that has potential risks. They may feel foreign or extramural or outside of the mainstream medical system. Are there specific strategies or ways that you think that you can reach out and earn that patient’s trust to the point that you can provide them counsel and help them hear the importance of the potential advantages of what you’re suggestion to them?

Regina Berkovich, MD, PhD: In my particular experience I heavily rely on explaining in the best possible layman’s terms, mechanism of action, how medications work. I think that this is the most important way to success because you explain what to expect, what the drug does, what it does to your immune system and how reversible that is, what to expect in terms of the adverse effects or possible risks which immediately relate to the mechanism of action. It’s amazing how well patients understand that. It’s again having that patience, explaining it and investing that time into it and unfortunately sometimes you have to do it twice and 3 times because people forget and you have to remind but with time this is the way to earn trust too. You show that you are willing to spend that time. You will win that time back other ways somehow because when you have that trust then you don’t have to spend that much time but at the beginning it’s something that I always do.

Jeffrey Dunn, MD: What is the role of the social worker or the nurse in this process? How can they help you contribute?

Regina Berkovich, MD, PhD: I believe that they can be extremely helpful because if they maintain the same ideas and they stick to the same principle and they stick to the same philosophy, hopefully they don’t work against you they work in support of what you do, it’s powerful.

Jeffrey Dunn, MD: Thank you very much.

Transcript Edited for Clarity