Ghent university collaborates to create a care pathway for multiple sclerosis
Awell Studio successfully collaborates with Master Programme in Nursing and Midwifery at Ghent University (Belgium) to create an evidence- informed digital care pathway for multiple sclerosis
In September 2020, Prof. Dr. Dimitri Beeckman approached us with an idea: his students, who are all pursuing master’s degrees (MSc) in nursing and midwifery at Ghent University in Belgium (https://www.ucvvgent.be/), should be able to gain first-hand experience by building their own evidence-based care pathway.
We were immediately onboard.
Not long after that first meeting, seven MSc Nursing and Midwifery students from Ghent University set to work: Véronique Le Lièvre, Isabel Vlerick, Mathilde Voet, Annelies Debergh, Laura Vanholst, Maksim De Baets and Kelly Van der Eecken set out to design a care pathway to help patients and doctors in the speciality MS. And now we can’t wait to show you their results.
MS, or Multiple Sclerosis, is a degenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. The signs, symptoms, and overall course of MS patients can vary widely, but they have one thing in common: once the disease is diagnosed, it lasts a lifetime. To date, there is no cure, so ongoing, flexible treatment is critical.
Armed with this knowledge, the students prepared to put their theoretical knowledge into practice in two courses over two semesters. In the first course, they developed the care pathway using Awell pathway Studio (a collaborative platform for developing and implementing digital treatment pathways); in the second course, they interviewed key stakeholders for ways to improve the pathway.
Since there are various forms of MS, students focused early on one particular variant: Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS). They scoured the evidence-based literature and drafted an initial version of their approach of care-but because the course of MS has so many unpredictable and individual outcomes, this was difficult to accomplish.
“It was important to standardise where possible and differentiate where necessary,” the students said of their care plan. The goal was that it had to be efficient and flexible.
Once the first version of the pathway was created, students focused on stakeholder feedback rather than design. By interviewing 14 professionals, including neurologists, MS nurses, a social worker, a patient manager, and a patient (to name a few), they were able to gain expert, practical insights into what works and what needs to change:
- What Was Working: The pathway could increase patient engagement in care by providing a single point of contact, and for providers it increases productivity by automating tasks such as patient data capture (Patient Reported Outcome Measures and Patient Reported Experience Measures). For all stakeholders, it increases transparency and communication.
- What Had to Change: From the variety of stakeholders interviewed, students learned that the way the various MS clinics (and care providers) operate, varies widely. In revising the pathway to facilitate its implementation, they also took time to consider the financial and legal aspects of the pathway.
For the MSc students, the best part of the project was knowing that their work could be applied in the real world. “That’s what we’re doing it for, after all,” they tell us. “We actually want to help improve the quality of patient care.”
Their tireless passion for helping others wasn’t limited to patients, however; when we asked them for advice for others who wanted to design their own pathways, they were willing to provide it.
“A clear division of responsibilities is absolutely essential,” the students said. It’s important to familiarise yourself with Awell Studio up front to increase efficiency. Then there is consistent communication, open collaboration and consultation with stakeholders in the clinic where the pathway is expected to be implemented.
At the end of the academic year, the students had not only successfully completed an assignment, they also developed a care pathway that could impact countless patients, care providers, and clinics.