A pioneering initiative by Shift.ms, an online charity for people with multiple sclerosis (MS), has been hailed by a leading NHS neurologist as a ‘shining example’ of how every-day smartphone technology could help to bridge the gap in healthcare information for hundreds of thousands of people living with long term medical conditions.
With the NHS under pressure and less time available with specialists, there is an increasing expectation on patients with long term medical conditions, such as MS, to self-care.
More patients are going online seeking advice, support and the latest research news. But there remains a desperate lack of trusted information available direct from healthcare professionals for patients which is easy to access and understand.
MS Reporters empowers people with MS by enabling them to access the latest healthcare information and expert opinion from some of the UK’s leading MS specialists and researchers, regardless of where they live.
As a result, users are better equipped to self-manage their condition and are more aware of emerging new treatments which could benefit them. They are also less reliant on GPs between specialist appointments – good for patients and for shrinking NHS budgets.
How MS Reporters works
- ms trains volunteers with MS to become citizen journalists, known as ‘MS Reporters’ and matches them with leading MS consultants and researchers at specialist neurology/MS centres across the UK.
- Using ordinary smartphones MS Reporters interview these experts, asking questions submitted by fellow members of the Shift.ms online community.
- The interviews are edited and added to a video library of expert knowledge which is free and accessible for people with MS worldwide.
MS Reporters has been well received by both the MS community and healthcare professionals and the MS Reporter model has already been successfully adopted by two other charities – Shine Cancer Support and Join Dementia Research – demonstrating its potential to help hundreds of thousands of patients with long term medical conditions in future.
Thanks to the backing of the Wellcome Trust and Comic Relief, MS Reporters will be scaled up over the coming months and the model shared with other charities and organisations within the medical world and beyond.
George Pepper, co-founder of Shift.ms, who has MS, says: “Many people with MS get to spend just 15 minutes a year with their consultant, if they’re lucky. MS Reporters aims to bridge this gap, empowering and informing the patient community by creating a dialogue with leading experts.”
Shift.ms has so far trained 35 citizen reporters and teamed them with leading MS experts from specialist MS centres in London, Edinburgh, Leeds, Salford, Liverpool and Dublin. Reporters can be trained remotely, making the scheme accessible to those with MS, regardless of where they live or how mobile they are because of their condition. There are now over 100 MS Reporter videos with a regular stream of new content being released monthly.
Prof Alan Thompson, Dean of the Faculty of Brain Sciences at UCL says: “MS Reporters is a shining example of how every day technology can be successfully used to empower and benefit patients with long term medical conditions. This kind of innovation could revolutionise the level and quality of information available to many thousands of patients, leading to better health and wellbeing. It could also go a long way to relieve the pressure on the NHS by enabling a greater degree of self-management, reducing time with GPs between specialist appointments.”