Challenges in multiple sclerosis care: Results from an international mixed-methods study

Sophie Péloquin, Klaus Schmierer, Thomas P. Leist, Jiwon Oh, Suzanne Murray, Patrice Lazure

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Disease-modifying treatment (DMT) selection for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) is challenging. Neurologists and advanced practice nurses (APNs) in MS care may be facing knowledge and confidence gaps when screening patients to initiate or switch between DMTs, assessing the safety of new DMTs and monitoring for adverse events. Healthcare providers are required to demonstrate enhanced patient communication skills, to share treatment decisions and assess treatment adherence. To better inform educational interventions, there is a need to better understand these challenges and uncover their causalities. We undertook an international study across seven countries to identify challenges for neurologists and APNs that may impact DMT choices and optimum care for people with MS (pwMS). Methods: This mixed methods study involved two concurrent data collection phases, a qualitative phase with semi-structured interviews and a quantitative phase using an online survey. Neurologists (n=333) and APNs (n=135) were recruited from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States. All participants had to have a minimum of two years’ experience in the care of pwMS and be currently active in clinical practice. Results: A triangulated analysis of qualitative and quantitative data identified multiple challenges. For APNs, these mainly related to diagnosing MS, integrating new agents in their practice, sequential DMT selection, treatment monitoring and providing personalized care. Specifically, two-thirds of APNs reported no or basic knowledge of the 2017 McDonald criteria and over half reported a knowledge gap of new DMTs available (51%) and a skill gap when integrating them into practice (58%). APNs expressed a knowledge gap of treatment sequencing (46%) and a skill gap in making decisions about sequencing (62%). Forty-four percent of APNs reported a gap in their skills of integrating patient's goals into treatment recommendations. For neurologists, the main challenges included managing side effects, aligning care to their patient's personal goals and quality of life (QoL). Specifically, over a third of neurologists reported no or basic knowledge of the characteristics of treatment failure (35%), and 32% reported no or basic skills identifying treatment failure. Skills needed to integrate patient's individual goals into treatment recommendations were reported as none or low by 39% of neurologists. In addition, there were significant differences according to years of practice in the majority (9 out of 14) of confidence items with respect to discussing specific MS-related topics with patients. Significant differences between countries were also identified. Conclusion: The complexity of diagnosing MS and the variety of available DMTs for pwMS lead to uncertainties, even among specialized healthcare professionals. These should be addressed through focused education and training to optimize care for pwMS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102854
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Advanced practice nurse
  • Continuing health education
  • Continuing medical education
  • Needs assessment
  • Neurologist

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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