Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) can transform even the most easygoing, unflappable individual into a full-time worrywart. Even in periods of extended remission, when symptoms are kept mercifully at bay for weeks or even months at a time, the disease has other ways of making its presence felt. Looming on the outer reaches of your consciousness, it’s always at-the-ready to derail your train of thought with worry about the next inevitable flare-up — when will it happen, where will it happen, and how bad will it be? It’s questions like these that generate the constant background hum of anxiety and fear experienced by most MS patients, 43% of which suffer from an anxiety disorder, significantly higher than the rate seen in the general population.
It was under this pall of low-grade anxiety that I picked my way through the crowd of 6,000-plus healthcare professionals that had descended on Boston’s Convention & Exhibition Center last month for HLTH 2021 — an annual industry event that brings together researchers, providers, entrepreneurs, and other healthcare leaders for a series of keynotes, presentations, and networking exercises; all with the stated goal of inspiring innovation and forging partnerships in the healthcare sector.