Some people with a chronic condition like multiple sclerosis are diagnosed by an MS specializing neurologist and stick with that doctor throughout much of their life with the disease. Others are diagnosed and have to search out a specialist once diagnosed. Some from both camps may have to change specialists within the course of their disease for a number of reasons. As a person who has been through the searching process, I thought it might be worthwhile to share some tips I’ve found helpful in looking for an MS specializing neurologist or clinic.
Many factors are at play when choosing a doc. Here are seven to consider:
1. Your ‘Place’ with MS
Whether newly diagnosed, relatively stable, progressive disease, seeking maintenance, or looking for aggressive intervention, where you are with your MS and what you are looking for in a course of treatment will be a major factor in what you’re looking for in a specialist. Take a good, long look at where you are and what you hope to achieve with a new head of your MS team.
Be it physical proximity to your home, insurance network restrictions, your willingness to travel, or the length of time it takes to get an appointment with a doctor, availability will be a major factor in your choice.
Do you want a doctor with a finger on the pulse of the MS research world? Might you want to consider being in a clinical trial or other research study of the disease? If yes, make sure your choice has a number of ongoing trials or studies you can review. You may not fit into a current study, but it’s good to know what research interests your potential doc has.
While not everyone will agree with this item, I find that the way I communicate with a doctor is quite important. It may be difficult to judge without paying for an office visit to interview potential docs, but there are other ways. It’s not uncommon for your local chapter of the National MS Society or MS Foundation to sponsor events with local specialists as speakers. Also, many of the MS pharmaceutical companies have regular seminars with one or more doctors in attendance. It’s a great way to get a feel for who it is you might be paying for medical advice without having to shell out an office visit fee.
5. Staff Support
Particularly if your specialist is practicing in an MS clinic, you may have access to other members of staff. Are there MS specializing nurses, nurse practitioners, PT, OT, rehab specialists, and/or mental health providers attached to your potential doctor’s clinic? If the specialist has a long lead time for appointments, is there another doc or nurse who can answer a call for an appointment within a reasonable amount of time?
6. Attitude toward complementary and alternative treatments
Take a good look at your attitude toward complementary and alternative treatments for multiple sclerosis. Now look to see how your potential provider’s attitudes overlay yours. Are they nearly aligned (let’s face it, everyone is different, so you shouldn’t expect them to stencil one another)? Would you be comfortable telling them that you’ve decided to do/take something which they have advised against? If you can’t be honest because you fear backlash in schoolmaster manner, then this may not be the doc for you.
Between talking to others in your area with MS, calling your local chapter of an MS patient advocacy organization, and a bit of online sleuthing, you’ll learn pretty quickly the regard your new doctor is held within the MS community. It’s sort of like moving to a new town and looking for someone to cut your hair. You find someone who has a hair type like yours, who has a cut you like, and you ask them where they get it done. It’s the same for finding a new MS doc.
This list is by no means a complete one as every person looking for a new specialist will need or want very specific things from a clinical professional. Having this list as a starting point, however, can be helpful if, like many with MS, you find yourself for reasons within or beyond your control looking for a new MS specialist.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.
See more helpful articles:
Curating an MS Library: Must-Reads for Anyone Living With Multiple Sclerosis
6 Complementary and Alternative Treatment Options for MS
How I Rebuilt My Self-Confidence After an MS Diagnosis