- Brain Health in MS is a care standard we are working towards to ensure the best quality care for people living with MS.
- A globally applicable quality improvement (QI) tool has now been developed for MS centres to benchmark themselves against set standards of MS care.
- This article describes the use of this QI tool in a pilot study across several countries, including Australia.
One of the most significant global initiatives in MS care in the past decade has been the development of the Brain Health in MS guidelines and framework, which aims to ensure timely intervention at all stages of MS. This includes a strong focus on education, monitoring, treatment and managing lifestyle factors that impact on MS progression.
People with MS can read and implement the outcomes of the Brain Health in MS initiatives for themselves. Still, they are not often aware of the global connections and work that goes into ensuring that the highest care standards possible for each region of the world are in place.
The international Brain Health in MS team has now developed a quality improvement (QI) tool so that MS centres globally can benchmark themselves against standards of care in order to improve lives for people with MS under their care.
Significantly, members of the team from Australia, Professor Helmut Butzkueven from Monash University and Ms Jodi Haartsen from MS Plus, have been involved with this project from the start.
Additionally, Jodi was recently recognised with an international Brain Health Leader Award
What did the pilot study involve?
After developing the QI tool, the next step in the validation process was to do a pilot (small) study to see how the QI tool performed in real-life MS clinics to determine its effectiveness and if any changes were needed.
The QI tool was used in 17 centres across 14 countries and across different stages of MS, including those newly diagnosed with MS, those with established relapsing remitting MS and those living with progressive MS.
An online survey was used by the centres to assess the ease of use of the QI tool, the value of initiating local change to MS care and the relevance of the tool.
Initially, a three-level framework was agreed upon to :
- Core standards currently achieved for most MS centres worldwide regardless of local health system (minimum standards).
- Achievable standards for most centres worldwide (reflecting a good standard of care).
- Aspirational standards for a few centres where the local health system support allows (the highest quality care possible).
What did the pilot study find?
Interestingly, over half of the pilot study participants reported that they were surprised by the outcomes from using the QI tool – both in terms of positive elements about their service evaluation and negative elements.
The QI tool was able to identify gaps in services and identify how to implement changes. For example, some centres found they did not routinely offer brain health education and identified issues with referrals and record keeping.
Most of the participating centres were keen to use the QI tool in the future to continue improving MS care in their clinical practice.
Additionally, the study team hopes to refine the tool by making it simpler to use, more flexible and customisable to drive consistent MS care service evaluation and development.
How does this tool help people with MS?
The vision of the Brain Health in MS team is for MS centres to have a tool to use for quality improvement to help guide their service provision.
Additionally, the QI tool helps to implement Brain Health in MS standards across the globe, resulting in more timely interventions, better disease monitoring, better education, and more focused lifestyle advice in MS.
Improving outcomes for people with MS is vital, and this is only achievable by consistent, best practice in clinical care.
As pilot study co-researcher Jodi Haartsen says:
“Developing tools to help MS centres of all abilities and capacities to improve their MS care can only mean better outcomes for people living with MS globally. This is at the heart of the Brain Health in MS initiatives and central to what we strive to do”.