ALS Outcomes Improve With Coordinated Healthcare

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It makes sense that when healthcare providers work together, better outcomes can result for people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). A new study supports this idea by showing that coordinated networks of care for ALS can result in fewer trips to the hospital, less deterioration and an expanded lifespan. The study, titled Coordinated care affects hospitalization and prognosis in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a cohort study appeared April 2nd in the online journal, BMC Health Services.

The study authors noted that “These results suggest that proactive coordination between carers in chronic and complex diseases could have a positive impact on hospitalization and the clinical course of the disease.”

shutterstock_118491940In ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), nerve cells that control movement progressively die in the brain and spinal cord. This causes muscle weakness, paralysis, and eventually loss of breathing and death. Unfortunately, there is no current cure for the disorder, and very limited treatments. Extensive healthcare resources are necessary to care for people with ALS.

The purpose of the research was to find out if integration of care impacts hospitalization and clinical outcomes in ALS. Led by Valérie Cordesse of ALS Community Network, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière in Paris, the scientists studied 2452 patients with possible or diagnosed ALS from 2000 to 2012.

The study subjects were compared before and after the creation of a community care network in 2006, based on formal, established standards. The care network included several healthcare providers, specifically, medical professionals specializing in neurology, gastroenterology, speech, physiotherapy, nursing, diet and social work. Patient care also included systematic phone calls for follow-up to care-givers, patients, relatives and healthcare providers. All healthcare providers also received updates about the patients by phone or email as well as healthcare recommendations.

The scientists also studied people with ALS who did not participate in the network. The researchers measured the number of patients, number of stays, and number of days, ALS functional deterioration, and time to death.

Hospitalization decreased after the creation of the network in 2006, bodily function also did not deteriorate as quickly after the creation of the network. Patients who were included in the network survived longer as well, a statistically significant effect.

The researchers noted that “…compared to a multidisciplinary care a proactive coordination between carers in chronic and complex diseases could have a positive impact…”

Overall, the study supported the idea that healthcare providers, working together as a team, can greatly impact the outcome of ALS in a positive manner. Coordinated care may also help other serious diseases. The work provides a framework and guidelines for the improved clinical care of individuals with ALS.