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It is fairly well established that a good relationship between persons living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and their healthcare providers (HCPs) leads to better health outcomes. When they work together to create a partnership, both people win. The patient wins by virtue of being listened to and respected in the healthcare process. The provider wins because his/her patient is in a better position to have a better quality of life.

I can attest to the power of a strong healthcare partnership. By working together, we can reach our agreed-upon healthcare goals. Unfortunately, not all healthcare relationships are seamless or beneficial. There may come a time when changing providers is in the best interest of the MS patient.

Living with a chronic illness means living with constant change. While the overall disease of MS is the same, how it is expressed in daily life is constantly changing. That may be why the consistency of a good healthcare provider relationship is so important. No matter what may be going on medically, that partnership can be a solid rock of security. When that partnership changes, it is hard to break up because while the team is not working well together, there is still a “together” element.

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Much like any other relationship, complacency can be more comfortable than change and the unknown that comes with it. Framing it as a “season or reason” choice can help ease the discomfort that comes with choosing to leave a provider. Instead of a rejection of an HCP, it can be a forward-looking adjustment for the person living with MS.

Read about HCP resources for MS

It can be unusually difficult to put oneself first. In the US, being selfish is frowned upon, even if it can be harmful. Generosity and selflessness are heralded. This self-sacrifice is not noble. It is often the cause of unnecessary pain. Deciding to change healthcare providers is centered on the person living with MS attempting to fulfill unmet needs.

The reasons for changing are as wide and varied as the individual. Some may seem silly or contrary to expectations. Regardless, it is the purview of the patient to look for the best relationship possible. This is the time for the HCP to not take it personally.

Assuming that there are no outstanding issues surrounding mistreatment, a patient departing for other waters is not a reflection on the HCP. It is simply a way to put oneself and one’s disease experience first.

When a patient has decided to move along to another healthcare provider, it can be an ego blow. The HCP is being told that the patient believes he/she is in better hands with someone else. While no one wants to be rejected, the discharge of a specific patient/provider relationship can be a win-win situation. Obviously, for the person living with MS, it can mean better communication and an HCP that is more in line with patient beliefs and goals.

Moreover, the HCP left behind can benefit as well. It can be a time for introspection if the patient has explicitly explained any problems or issues that led to the separation. It can be a time to take a breath and reassess patient/provider relationships. There can be no silver lining if the dark cloud goes unexamined.