Patient education, support and self-management of multiple sclerosis (MS) has just become easier through the joint efforts of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) and the leader in simulation-based learning platforms for healthcare and the creators of the ALIVE Med delivery platform, Syandus. Together they created a virtual support group for MS patients called, “Virtual Conversations in Multiple Sclerosis: Taking Control of My Therapy,” which is available as an app for both PC and Mac.
One of the obstacles to effectively manage MS is patients’ lack of compliance to prescribed regimens and lifestyle modifications, which can greatly affect disease outcomes and healthcare costs. Noncompliance is caused by a number of factors, making it a significant challenge to healthcare providers to address all barriers adequately, especially through a static educational program. Through a more engaging, virtual conversation platform, MS patients and caregivers have the option to learn from friendly, well-informed virtual patients in private and at their own pace.
“Treatment adherence is a significant challenge for multiple sclerosis patients during the course of disease,” said June Halper, CEO of CMSC. “This virtual simulation was created to educate MS patients and their caregivers to help them improve adherence, advocate for themselves, and assist them in establishing a stronger relationship with their healthcare providers.”
The new online support group features 3 types of virtual patients, varying in gender, age, and ethnicity. The “group” is also facilitated by a virtual multiple sclerosis specialist nurse. Throughout the session, the virtual MS patients take turns sharing their misconceptions about the disease, gaps in knowledge, along with their thoughts and feelings from when they first received their diagnosis. The user will then choose which patient they relate to the most in order to steer the virtual group discussion in the necessary direction. The program offers more than 100 opportunities for interaction and additional queries, and referrals to supplementary resources. Some of the virtual patients’ relatable concerns are:
- “I don’t understand most of what my doctor says;”
- “Maybe the doctor is wrong and I don’t have MS;”
- “I really hate needles/injections;”
- “I don’t think my doctor listens to my concerns;”
- “My MS medications do not seem to be working.”
This simulation of an MS support group is only the beginning of a series of “virtual conversations” on the disease. The CMSC is already working on adding more salient areas of discussion and learning, channeled through non-judging, empathetic models to improve patient and caregiver knowledge on MS.