BACKGROUND: Treatment decision-making is complex for people with multiple sclerosis. Profound information on available options is virtually not possible in regular neurologist encounters. The "nurse decision coach model" was developed to redistribute health professionals' tasks in supporting immunotreatment decision-making following the principles of informed shared decision-making.
OBJECTIVES: To test the feasibility of a decision coaching programme and recruitment strategies to inform the main trial.
DESIGN: Feasibility testing and parallel pilot randomised controlled trial, accompanied by a mixed methods process evaluation.
SETTING: Two German multiple sclerosis university centres.
PARTICIPANTS PILOT TRIAL: People with suspected or relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis facing immunotreatment decisions on first line drugs were recruited. Randomisation to the intervention (n = 38) or control group (n = 35) was performed on a daily basis. Quantitative and qualitative process data were collected from people with multiple sclerosis, nurses and physicians.
METHODS: We report on the development and piloting of the decision coaching programme. It comprises a training course for multiple sclerosis nurses and the coaching intervention. The intervention consists of up to three structured nurse-led decision coaching sessions, access to an evidence-based online information platform (DECIMS-Wiki) and a final physician consultation. After feasibility testing, a pilot randomised controlled trial was performed. People with multiple sclerosis were randomised to the intervention or control group. The latter had also access to the DECIMS-Wiki, but received otherwise care as usual. Nurses were not blinded to group assignment, while people with multiple sclerosis and physicians were. The primary outcome was 'informed choice' after six months including the sub-dimensions' risk knowledge (after 14 days), attitude concerning immunotreatment (after physician consultation), and treatment uptake (after six months). Quantitative process evaluation data were collected via questionnaires. Qualitative interviews were performed with all nurses and a convenience sample of nine people with multiple sclerosis.
RESULTS: 116 people with multiple sclerosis fulfilled the inclusion criteria and 73 (63%) were included. Groups were comparable at baseline. Data of 51 people with multiple sclerosis (70%) were available for the primary endpoint. In the intervention group 15 of 31 (48%) people with multiple sclerosis achieved an informed choice after six months and 6 of 20 (30%) in the control group. Process evaluation data illustrated a positive response towards the coaching programme as well as good acceptance.
CONCLUSIONS: The pilot-phase showed promising results concerning acceptability and feasibility of the intervention, which was well perceived by people with multiple sclerosis, most nurses and physicians. Delegating parts of the immunotreatment decision-making process to trained nurses has the potential to increase informed choice and participation as well as effectiveness of patient-physician consultations.