Serious Illness Conversation Guide

Technical Assistance Tool

This resource provides step-by-step guidance for clinicians engaging in conversation with patients about serious illness.


  • The basic steps are: set up the conversation; assess understanding and preferences; share prognosis; explore key topics; close the conversation; document your conversation; and communicate with key clinicians.
  • The resource includes examples of patient-tested language for each step. For example: “How much information about what is likely to be ahead with your illness would you like from me?” and “What are your most important goals if your health situation worsens?”
Posted to The Playbook on
Population Addressed
People with Advanced Illness
Key Questions Answered
  • What is an effective and compassionate way to have a conversation about serious illness with a patient?
  • What are some examples of wording that have been shown to generate positive responses from patients?
Level of Evidence
What does this mean?