Research is needed to identify the unmet disease education and communication needs of people with multiple sclerosis (PwMS) to support informed decision-making, enable self-management and maintain independence for PwMS for as long as possible.
An Expert Steering Group co-developed two studies for PwMS aged 18 years and over: a qualitative, online, patient community activity and a quantitative anonymised online survey. The quantitative survey was conducted in the UK from 12 September 2019 to 18 November 2019 amongst PwMS recruited via the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Trust newsletter and their closed Facebook group. Questions explored the goals, desires, and knowledge gaps of PwMS. Self-reported data from people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) were collated and reviewed, and discussed by the Steering Group. This paper presents descriptive statistics of the quantitative survey findings.
The sample consisted of 117 participants with RRMS. Most respondents (73%) had personal goals related to lifestyle and many (69%) were concerned about maintaining independence. More than half of respondents were worried about planning for the future in relation to income (56%), housing (40%) and most respondents also indicated MS had a negative impact on their lives, including their work life (73%) and social life (69%). Limited occupational support was forthcoming (17% were not provided with any support and only 27% report their work environment being adjusted to suit their needs). The ability to plan for the future and to understand the course of MS were highlighted as key priorities by respondents. A positive trend was observed between those who felt able to plan for the future and their knowledge of MS progression. The proportion of patients who report knowing a ‘great deal’ about MS prognosis and disability progression was low (16% and 9%, respectively), suggesting an increased role for clinical teams to provide information and education for PwMS. Communication between respondents and their clinical teams highlighted the role of specialist nurses for PwMS to provide holistic, informative support and demonstrated the level of comfort that PwMS have in discussing less clinical topics with these providers.
This UK nationwide survey highlighted some of the unmet needs in disease education and communication in a subgroup of UK patients with RRMS, which can impact quality of life. Discussing goals and planning alongside prognosis and disability progression with MS care teams may enable people with RRMS not only to make informed treatment decisions, but also to self-manage and plan for the future, factors which are important to maintain independence.

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