Conference Coverage

Racial, ethnic disparities persist in access to MS care


At CMSC 2023

The access to and quality of multiple sclerosis (MS) care varies substantially depending on a patient’s race, ethnicity, gender, and geography, according to research on patient-reported health inequities presented at the annual meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers.

”Equal access to and quality of care are critical for managing a progressive disease such as multiple sclerosis,” said Chris Hardy, of Publicis Health Media, and her associates. “Despite increased awareness of health outcome disparities in the U.S., certain patients still experience inequities in care.”

The researchers sent emails to members of MyMSTeam, an online support network of more than 197,000 members, to request completion of a 34-question online survey. Questions addressed respondents’ ability to access care, resources in their neighborhood, and their interactions with their health care providers. Questions also addressed the burden of MS on individuals’ quality of life, which was considerable across all demographics. The 1,935 patients with MS who responded were overwhelmingly White, though the demographics varied by question.

A ‘widespread and significant problem’

“This study is important in pointing out the unfortunate, obvious [fact] that lack of access and lack of availability to treatment is still a widespread and significant problem in this country,” commented Mark Gudesblatt, MD, a neurologist at South Shore Neurologic Associates who was not involved in the study. “Improving effective treatment of disease requires a more granular understanding of disease impact on a quantitative, multidimensional, objective patient-centric approach,” he added. “Racial and ethnic barriers to effective treatment cannot be allowed nor tolerated. We need to be more acutely aware that outreach, digital health, and remote assessments are tools that we need to incorporate to improve access and do better.”

The pervasive impact of MS

Overall, 85% of respondents reported that MS made it harder to do everyday chores, and 84% said their MS made it harder to exercise and interfered with their everyday life. Similarly high proportions of respondents reported that their MS causes them a lot of stress (80%), makes them feel anxious or depressed (77%), disrupts their work/employment (75%), and interferes with their social life (75%). In addition, more than half said their diagnosis negatively affects their family (59%) and makes them feel judged (53%).

Deanne Power, RN, MSCN, the lead nurse care partner at Octave Bioscience, who spoke as a representative of the study authors, said it’s critical that clinicians be aware of the health inequities that exist among their patient population.

“Some patients have lower income or language issues where English is not their primary language, and they don’t have access and are even afraid to call doctor or reach out [for help],” Ms. Power said. “If providers aren’t actively aware of these situations and talk to their patients, they can’t just say, ‘Oh, well, I just want you to go fill this prescription,’ when they don’t have money to put food on their table. Providers have got to know their patients as [more than] just an MS patient. This is a human being in front of you, and you better know what their life is like, because it’s impacting their MS.”


Recommended Reading

B-cell level may affect COVID booster efficacy in MS
Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management
MS and COVID-19: Conflicting signs on risk but some trends are clearer
Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management
A better way to predict fall risk in patients with MS?
Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management
New research confirms recommendations on COVID-19 boosters in MS
Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management
More evidence for EBV’s role in MS
Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management
Advancing health equity in neurology is essential to patient care
Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management
High drug costs exclude most neurology patients from cutting-edge treatment
Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management
Health plans get very poor scores for access to autoimmune drugs
Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management
Can particles in dairy and beef cause cancer and MS?
Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management
Stem cell transplants are more effective than some MS therapies
Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management