MS is a complex and challenging condition for many if not all patients. A range of healthcare professionals can play key roles in treatment and management. We are interested in establishing across the UK just who patients see when attending outpatient clinics and whether they feel that others should be involved to meet their needs best.
Over the past 20 years, there have been significant and welcome developments in disease modifying therapies (DMTs). Increasing choice can however lead to complexity for patients in particular and their clinicians. We are interested in understanding how patients perceive the decision making process around treatments and how involved and informed they feel.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the brain with or without spinal cord) has had an important role in the diagnosis of MS for over 25 years and increasingly it is now used to assess disease stability and the safety and effectiveness of treatments. We are keen to establish how interested patients are in seeing their own MRI scans at clinic appointments and what their current level of access is.
Finally, we want to understand the patient perception of lumbar punctures (LPs/spinal taps). This can be an uncomfortable procedure for patients but does play an important supportive role in the diagnostic process. However it is also being suggested that lumbar punctures and analysis of the spinal fluid (also known as CSF) obtained could be of value beyond diagnosis, providing prognostic (predictive) information, assessing treatment effectiveness and guiding future treatment choices. Given the nature of the procedure we are keen to establish whether it would be of practical utility by testing its acceptability to patients.
Our goal is to obtain information across the UK that could improve service developments for patients with MS, improve the patient experience and guide future research and treatment approaches. Specifically we would like to test your experience of outpatient clinics, access to MRI scans, the information and decision making around disease modifying therapies (DMTs) and your attitude to the potential use of lumbar punctures (LPs/spinal taps) to improve our understanding of the processes underlying MS and potentially assess the effectiveness of treatments.
By Dr Gavin V McDonnell, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust