Some people prefer to visit an MS clinic for integrated health care
When you're diagnosed with a chronic condition like MS, it's important to find a team of health care professionals who can give you the best care possible. In many cases, specialized MS clinics are the first choice of people living with the condition.
But are MS clinics really different from a general practitioner's office or a neurology practice? For many people with MS, the difference means finding all the health care services they need integrated into one clinic, instead of visiting a variety of different offices for treatment.
Benefits of MS Clinics
The first and most obvious benefit of being treated at an MS clinic is the specialization of the health care providers – they're up-to-date on the latest training, techniques and medications available to people with MS. This is not to say that practitioners outside of this setting are not, but the special focus on MS at clinics ensures that efforts and attention are 100 percent focused on your condition.
Ophthalmologists, social workers, urologists, physical therapists, neurologists, alternative care providers like massage therapists and other professionals are among the specialists available through MS clinics. Having these services available may prove useful to you and your care team.
Additionally, because many MS clinics are affiliated with teaching hospitals or academic centers, they're among the first to participate in clinical trials of new drugs and other treatments for MS. They also may be more willing to provide aggressive or alternative treatment when the situation warrants it.
Is an MS Clinic Right for You?
Deciding where to get care for MS is a very important personal decision that's based on a number of factors. For example, people who need special treatment for pediatric or gynecological conditions may feel more comfortable going to an MS clinic that has a pediatrician or gynecologist on staff.
On the other hand, some people are happier seeing the same general practitioner they've seen for years, especially if he or she is conveniently located nearby. There are other practical considerations, including the clinic's office hours, locations of any testing facilities, and whether or not the clinic accepts a person's heath insurance.
Regardless of where you decide to get treatment, it's important to ensure that every aspect of your MS treatment - medical, physical, social and emotional - are properly addressed so you get all the help and support you need.
How to Find an MS Clinic
In most cases, you will need a referral to an MS clinic from your primary care physician or neurologist. The American Academy of Neurology, or a local chapter of the MS Society, may also be able to help you locate an MS clinic in or near your area.
Following a referral, all medical records and other information are sent over to the MS clinic. An initial visit will usually involve confirming a diagnosis of MS, conducting a complete neurological exam, and performing any additional tests. A nurse or social worker may also determine if you have any special requirements, or if there are educational needs that should be addressed.
The test results and records of your initial visit(s) may be forwarded back to the referring physician; follow-up visits at the MS clinic may also be recommended.
Canadian Network of Multiple Sclerosis Clinics. "MS Clinics FAQs." Accessed Feb. 23, 2011.