Patricia K. Coyle, MD: Communicating With Patients With MS

April 3, 2020

The director of the MS Comprehensive Care Center and interim chair of the department of neurology at Stony Brook University spoke to the importance of properly communicating with patients with MS as a physician.

“What does remitting imply? It implies that the damage process stops—[that’s] totally untrue. Why are we calling it relapsing-remitting?”

When it comes to treating patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), many specialists would say that the proverbial cat is out of the bag on the best approach. In the last few years, the amount of literature supporting earlier treatment has pushed the field toward a more unified discussion about the best time to begin treatment for this patient population. Although, not every issue has been resolved, nor every question answered.

For Patricia K. Coyle, MD, professor and interim chair, department of neurology, and director, MS Comprehensive Care Center, Stony Brook University, one of the biggest concerns is the ability for physicians to properly communicate with and educate their patients. She told NeurologyLive in a conversation that the need for physicians to inform patients about the ongoing, accumulating, and permanent damage that occurs in those with relapsing disease, in order to help them understand that despite the name—relapsing-remitting MS—the disease does not necessarily stop causing damage.

Coyle also discussed the importance of this communication when it comes to shared decision making and choosing their therapy. She detailed the factors that need to be taken into account from the disease, patient, and therapeutic standpoint, and how using this approach can make a possible switch in treatment even smoother for both patient and practitioner.