Tips for Finding The MS Care Provider Who is Right For You

Female doctor talking with a male patient

24 Aug 2022 | ~4:10 Engagement Time


Megan Weigel , Nurse Practitioner


We need and want a lot from our healthcare providers. Expertise, a great “bedside manner,” responsiveness, a friendly office staff, convenience, and accessibility in the parking lot, office, and bathroom are all important. But each of us has different priorities – so figuring out what matters most to you will make it easier to find the provider you need.

What is comprehensive MS care?

Comprehensive MS Care is the gold standard. In short, MS care is comprehensive when it is delivered by a coordinated team of MS experts who ensure that all aspects of your care, including diagnosis, disease, symptom and relapse management, rehabilitation, and emotional support are available to you. This may occur in one location or in several, coordinated locations.

Unfortunately, this kind of care tends to be primarily available in urban areas. People with MS living in more rural areas usually have to build their own teams. In addition, not all providers accept all types of insurance.

Who provides high-quality MS care?

Specialized MS care is typically provided by a neurologist, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, either in a comprehensive center, academic medical center, or in private practice. MS specialists have advanced training, and usually certification, in MS.

  • Physicians may choose to complete an MS fellowship after a neurology residency.
  • Physician assistants (PA) may spend time in an MS mentorship. They may then take the MS Certified Specialist exam and be credentialed as an MSCS (a credential that is available to all licensed health care providers who pass the exam).
  • A registered nurse or nurse practitioner (NP) can take the MS Certified Nurse exam and be credentialed as an MSCN.

Because of their focus on treating MS patients, these specialists are more knowledgeable about the current MS research and the available treatments. They also tend to have a network of other specialists (e.g., urologists, gastroenterologists, rehabilitation professionals, and mental health professionals with whom they collaborate.

What are your needs and priorities?

While you might not find everything you are looking for with a provider, it’s helpful to ask yourself if your primary needs are being met. These are some questions to think about:

  • Can I get an appointment when I need one?
  • Is there time to address my priorities as well as the provider’s?
  • Do I feel heard and respected?
  • Does my provider offer support and encouragement if I want a second opinion about something?
  • Are my needs being met?
  • Can I reach my provider with questions or concerns?
  • Do I feel comfortable with my provider and the office staff?

When should I look for a different provider?

If the answer to some or all of these questions is “no,” it is probably time to look for solutions.

  • You can schedule an appointment with your current provider to discuss your working relationship. Sometimes that kind of honest conversation is all it takes to get things onto a better path.
  • If that doesn’t seem to do the trick, you can contact the National MS Society (1-800-344-4867) to see whether there are other MS providers in your area. They maintain a list of Comprehensive Care Centers as well as Partners in MS Care who work outside of the big centers but provide high quality MS care. You can also ask your PT, OT, or mental health professional for a recommendation or check with other people with MS in your area to learn where they go for their treatment
  • It’s also common practice to have an ongoing relationship with a local provider with whom you feel comfortable, while also having an annual consultation with an MS specialist at a comprehensive care center. Many people like to get a yearly once-over from an MS specialist just to make sure that their treatment isn’t missing anything – and they are willing to travel some distance to do that.

How can I ensure continuity of my care?

If you decide to look for a new provider, don’t let your MS care lapse in the meantime. If you secure an appointment that is several months off (getting in as a new patient is often difficult these days), make sure you keep scheduled appointments with your current provider so your lab work, MRI scans, and prescriptions continue while you wait.

It’s easier to invest in care for yourself when you feel that your needs are being met. You invest a lot in your MS care, emotionally and financially, and it is your right to be comfortable with your MS care team!