Multiple Sclerosis Specialty Care Program
Concord Hospital offers patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) respected and innovative programs that focus on all aspects of MS care, including a patient’s physical and emotional well-being.
MS is a disease of the central nervous system in which the body’s immune system malfunctions and attacks healthy brain cells, affecting the brain, the spinal cord, and the optic nerves. It can cause many problems, including weakness and numbness in the hands and legs, bowel and bladder problems, and vision and memory problems.
The MS Specialty Care Program at Concord Hospital Neurology has assembled a team comprising a neurologist, mental health specialist, nurse, nurse practitioner, physical therapist, occupational therapist, social worker, nutritionist, medical assistants, peer volunteers, and National Multiple Sclerosis Society representatives.
The program, developed in 2012, follows approximately 1,200 patients from New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. It has developed a large network of resources for newly diagnosed patients and patients already in treatment. A key goal is to teach patients how to cope with MS, how to network with others with MS and to offer support to help prevent relapses.
The program includes a monthly MS clinic where patients with complex issues can see all of their specialists at one time, making for more timely and coordinated care. Having such a comprehensive program in the community benefits patients, saving them from having to travel long distances for care.
MS Mentor Bonnie Norton in the therapy pool
The Specialty Care Program includes the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation Wellness Program, which pairs MS patients with peer mentors— others with MS—who are Concord Hospital volunteers trained by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The program, supported by grant funding, joins mentors with patients in activities to improve their health and wellness.
The program was designed by its director, Brant Oliver, PhD, MPH, APRN-BC, a provider in the specialty care program. With guidance from Oliver, the peer mentors manage and run the program, making it the only program of its type in the region.
The program is open to patients of Concord Hospital Neurology’s MS Specialty Care Program who do not have access and/or finances to participate in wellness programs on their own. Participants help formulate an individual wellness plan, then carry it out with support from their peer mentor and one-year funding of up to $1,000 for each team from the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
Since 2013, approximately 20 people have completed the program and many now are mentors. Wellness programs can reduce chronic stress and improve a patient’s sense of ability to cope with an uncertain chronic illness, such as MS.
Mentors reach beyond valuable wellness programs presented at the Hospital by engaging patients in their own communities, often a long ride to Concord.