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Articles from "Ask the Professional" column of MS Connection,
July/August 2005, by Dr. Derek Smith, MD

How did plans for developing a comprehensive MS center in Connecticut begin?

Because many MS patients were already getting their care at Neurology Associates in Norwich, Connecticut, many elements of an MS center are already in place. In addition, we have a rehabilitation facility that is located in the same building. We plan to include a social worker as part of the team as well. We will have a dedicated infusion area, where patients can interact with MS center providers as well as other MS patients - an important component as we move toward more intravenous treatments in MS. There is also an on-site MRI scanner and radiologist. MRI is an important component of diagnosis, but is also integral to the ongoing management of MS. At our MRI facility we will also be conducting cutting-edge MRI measures, such as quantitative atrophy assessments, which are most relevant to quantifying cognitive and physical disability in MS. There are very few other MS Centers in the country doing these measures as yet.

While the primary focus will always be on patient care, it is our hope to build MS Care of Connecticut into a first-rate facility, that in addition to serving the needs of our patients, can also conduct and support clinical research in the search for a cause, new treatments, and a cure for MS.

With approximately 6,000 state residents living with MS, it is important to spearhead the development of a comprehensive MS center in Connecticut. Most individuals with MS won’t need all of the services we will be organizing, but individuals with more complex cases do. For other patients and doctors our goal will be to fill the gaps in their care and act as a resource for certain services. Our goal is to ensure that Connecticut residents have easy access to comprehensive MS care.

What is a comprehensive MS center and what is its purpose?

Because multiple sclerosis (MS) can affect so many different parts of the central nervous system, it can potentially cause problems with almost any part of our mind or body. Frequently, individuals with MS are affected by more than one symptom of the disease. This can make coping with MS difficult for many people; and requires extra care from physicians to ensure that we are addressing all of the needs of our patients. The diversity of MS symptoms can require many different medical, psychological and social approaches in order to adequately address each issue. Unfortunately, that task is often too much for any one medical professional to provide. It was for this reason that the concept of a comprehensive MS center was developed.

A comprehensive MS center has a core group of providers who can enlist the support of additional specialists as needed. This core group includes a neurologist, who establishes patient diagnosis and guides the treatment plan. Some MS centers are managed by a physiatrist or rehabilitation doctor. Other key team members include a nurse or medical assistant, who can provide more day-to-day support and contact for the patient; and a social worker or case manager, who helps people with MS manage their home and work situations. Ideally, an MS center would also encompass the resources of rehabilitative personnel, including physical, occupational and speech therapists. Because cognitive problems and depression are also common in MS, a psychiatrist and neuropsychologist would be important professionals to include in an MS Center. Beyond this core group, many other specialists should be available such as urologists, ophthalmologists and pain specialists. Finally, many patients are interested in alternative and holistic approaches to their MS. For an MS center to be truly comprehensive, we need to have the ability to provide guidance regarding these therapeutic modalities as well.

An important feature of a well-functioning MS center is that members of the team meet on a regular basis to discuss patients. This way, care can be carefully coordinated for each patient we serve.

To learn more about MS Care of Connecticut, please call 860.886.1433 or email at info@mscarect.org.

 

 

© 2005 MS Care of Connecticut