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Annual Checklist to Manage MS

By Matt Cavallo
A new year is upon us, and with that comes a new year of managing multiple sclerosis. Unlike other diseases that have a beginning and an end, MS lacks a cure. Just because there is not yet a cure, however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to manage your MS.

The following is a checklist of activities that will help you and your care team manage and monitor your MS.

Schedule neurologist appointment(s). I recommend seeing your neurologist every six months, but if that is too much, at least once a year. Neurology appointments book up fast, so if there is a certain day or time that you prefer, make sure to get it on the calendar early.

Schedule MRI(s). One way to manage MS is to get an MRI either every year or every six months, depending on your neurologist’s recommendation. MRIs show disease progression, making them an important tool for you and your care team to manage MS. Like neurology appointments, MRI appointment slots fill up fast, especially if you need to schedule on the weekend because of work or other commitments. 

Schedule lab work. When you call to schedule your neurologist appointment, tell the scheduler you need to update your lab work. Your neurologist’s office will then send an updated order to the lab of your choice. Labs are used to manage and monitor certain MS treatments, as well as manage other important MS indicators such as your vitamin D levels. Once you get the updated order, your lab will have an online scheduling feature. This will allow you to skip the line making it more convenient for you to get your labs done without having to wait. The appointments fill up fast. Morning appointments always book in advance because of labs that require fasting. Pro tip: for those who forget to schedule, if you don’t need to fast for your lab, you will always have less of a wait as a walk-in in the afternoon because everyone who had to fast is usually there in the morning.

Schedule a physical with your personal care physician. Even though your neurologist is the point practitioner for your MS, the relationship with your PCP is very important. MS is just one piece of your overall health picture and your PCP helps manage your health as a whole. Your PCP can write referrals, manage prescriptions, manage immunizations, and evaluate, treat, or refer you for all health concerns. An annual physical establishes a baseline and can catch health problems that you may have overlooked. 

Update/renew referrals. Do you need a referral to your neurologist? Do you see specialists such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech language pathologist? Depending on your insurance, you may need referrals to see these specialists. Depending on your insurance, your referral may expire, so you are going to want to check to see if you need to update or renew any referrals to specialists you may need. You do not want to have a visit or claim denied because it required a referral. 

Review health plan benefits. Health plan benefits can change each year, including the formulary. The formulary is the health plan’s approved drug list. Maybe you wanted to try a new MS treatment, but it wasn’t on your insurance’s formulary. There is a chance that the formulary was updated, and that treatment is now available. Call the customer service number on the back of your insurance card and ask the representative if any plan benefits have changed and if the formulary has been updated for the current year.

Enroll/update financial assistance programs. Most MS treatments offer financial or copay assistance programs. Call the pharmaceutical company that manufactures your MS treatment to enroll or update financial or copay assistance so you can take advantage of programs that are offered. As a note, most of these programs do not have an income qualifier, so you may be eligible even if you think you may not qualify because of how much you earn.