As part of its mandate, the Health Quality Council collaborates with researchers in Saskatchewan and beyond to conduct and promote research that can directly impact the quality of health care delivered to Saskatchewan residents.
HQC recently contributed to a pair of papers that look at the use of health care services by people with multiple sclerosis, a chronic inflammatory and neurodegenerative disease whose cause is unknown. Both studies were multi-province collaborations, with teams in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia contributing to the research. Dr. Charity Evans, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Saskatchewan, led the Saskatchewan portion of the studies, and HQC research analyst Dr. Xinya Lu completed the statistical analyses. Both studies were funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The first project looked at the relationship between a person’s adherence to first-line disease-modifying therapies and whether better adherence reduces the need for hospitalization. While there’s no cure for MS, several therapies have been shown to reduce the disease’s impact on patients and their use of health care services. The research team found hospitalization rates were lower among patients who used recommended therapies, but the findings were not statistically significant. The team also found that people who had previously been hospitalized or who had used other non-MS medications were at greater risk of subsequent hospitalization. Their paper, entitled “Adherence to disease-modifying therapies for multiple sclerosis and subsequent hospitalizations,” was published in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.
A second study was published in April 2017 in the journal Lancet Neurology, entitled “Health-care use before a first demyelinating event suggested of a multiple sclerosis prodrome: a matched cohort study.” The degenerative processes underlying neurodegenerative diseases can in fact begin many years before a person shows any outward clinical signs or symptoms. This study found that people who eventually develop MS use more health care services than non-MS patients in the five years before they first exhibit any clinical signs of the disease. Evans says the team’s findings point toward future research that could help better manage MS through earlier detection. “The next step will likely be to look at whether there are patterns in the care these pre-MS patients are seeking, based on the health problems they experience,” says Evans. “That could serve as an early signal of increased risk of MS developing.”