What is Advance Serious Illness Planning?

Basically, it’s a document that outlines your values and treatment preferences that you prepare in advance, in case you experience a serious illness or injury (for example: COVID-19 pneumonia, a major car accident, or a severe stroke) and cannot speak for yourself.

In a randomized controlled trial, advance serious illness planning was shown to reduce the burden and conflict among loved ones and reduced stress, anxiety and depression in surviving family members. Patients who used our Advance Serious Illness Planning Guide:

Serious Illness Planning is NOT End of Life Planning.

At the point when you experience a serious illness, doctors will need to know whether to apply life-sustaining treatments, and they may not know for sure if you are dying. End of life plans don’t apply.

We want to help you understand how communicating your values and preferences are an important part of decision-making about your medical care during a serious illness — whether you live or die.

Think your legal documents have got you covered? Think again.

Did you know that the legal documents without the right education and preparation are completely inadequate for decision making in the event of a serious illness? That is becasue with serious illness there is a probability you may die but there is also a probability you may recover.

Unfortunately, too many people have to rely on unhelpful documents to aid them in their decision-making during a difficult time because their loved one has failed to make an Advance Serious Illness Plan.

Add one more planning document to your file that will be helpful to your decision-makers in a medical crisis (and it’s free).

What if you don’t plan?

Failing to plan could lead to undesirable outcomes such as:

  • family disagreement and conflict
  • stress on your family members and loved ones
  • anxiety and guilt for the decision makers, wondering if they made the right call
  • dying an undignified, uncomfortable death as a result of unwanted life-saving measures
  • being allowed to die when you would have rather lived

How confident is your representative in making life and death decisions for you?

It’s impossible to be 100% certain about what the right choice is in a life and death situation.

However, it’s a lot easier when your legal representative knows what you value, what your goals are, and what criteria you have chosen to base your decisions on.

Ease the burden of decision-making for your loved ones by putting your values on paper and create your Advance Serious Illness Plan today.

“No patient ever knows going into the ICU that their family will be faced with such a difficult decision to make on their behalf. And asking them to make a decision on whether to live or die prior to being put on life support in such a short time is unimaginable.”

~ Legal Representative 
(without an Advance Serious Illness Plan)

Plan Well Publications

Dr. Daren Heyland and colleagues have been scientifically validating the Plan Well system in clinical settings for over 20 years. The Guides you see today are the culmination of those years of research. To read more about how we got here and how our Guide was developed, feel free to browse through our publications:

We published an article in the journal Health Expectations detailing the process of English to French translation and cultural adaptation of the Plan Well Guide.

Randomised trial of a serious illness decision aid (Plan Well Guide) for patients and their Representatives to improve engagement in advance care planning.

In a post-hoc subgroup analysis, there was a significant difference in favour of the Plan Well Guide group in participants with a lower-than-median baseline score compared with those at or above the median. The use of Plan Well Guide led to a significant improvement among Representative (formerly called Substitute Decision Makers) who were the least prepared at the start.

A randomized trial of Plan Well Guide was recently published in CMAJ Open. The results showed that Plan Well Guide improves decision quality, patient and physician satisfaction, and reduces time physicians spend on their interactions with patients.

Articles by Year

November 25

Patient Education and Counseling, Volume 104 – Issue 4: Effect of “Speak Up” educational tools to engage patients in advance care planning in outpatient healthcare settings: A prospective before-after study

September 23

MedRxiv Preprint: Supporting decision-making on allocation of ICU beds and ventilators in pandemics

September 17

ICU Management & Practice, Volume 20 – Issue 3: Unmasking the Triumphs, Tragedies, and Opportunities of the COVID-19 Pandemic

September 1

Australian Critical Care, Volume 33 – Issue 5: Shared decision-making in the intensive care unit requires more frequent and high-quality communication: A research critique

August 11

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada: New tool helps patients plan for serious illness care

July 18 

Healthcare, MDPI, Volume 8 – Issue 3: Advance Care Planning (ACP) vs. Advance Serious Illness Preparations and Planning (ASIPP)

July 10

Ontario Hospital Association: Supporting Patients in Getting the Medical Care that Is Right for Them

June 3

Canadian Geriatrics Journal, Volume 23 – Number 2: The Impact of Prior Advance Care Planning Documentation on End-of-Life Care Provision in Long-Term Care

June 1

Canadian Medical Protective Association Practically Speaking Podcast: COVID-19: Advance care directives

May 25

BMC Family Practice, Volume 21- Number 94: Exploring patient-reported barriers to advance care planning in family practice

May 21

Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association: Become a CHPCA Associate or Affiliate / Provincial Member

May 1

Canadian Geriatrics Journal, Volume 23 – Issue 2: The Impact of Prior Advance Care Planning Documentation on End-of-Life Care Provision in Long-Term Care

Journal of Post-Acute and Long-term Care Medicine, Volume 21 – Issue 5: A Multicenter Study to Identify Clinician Barriers to Participating in Goals of Care Discussions in Long-Term Care

April 28

Canadian Medical Association Journal, Volume 8 – Issue 2: A novel decision aid to help plan for serious illness: a multisite randomized trial

March 2020

The Annals of Family Medicine, Volume 18 – Issue 2: Effect of an Interactive Website to Engage Patients in Advance Care Planning in Outpatient Settings

March 25

Family Practice, Volume 37 – Issue 2: Primary care clinicians’ confidence, willingness participation and perceptions of roles in advance care planning discussions with patients: a multi-site survey

January 19

The Lancet: EClinicalMedicine, Volume 19: Advance care planning; we need to do it more, but it needs to be done differently

February 1, 2018

Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Volume 55 – Issue 2: Outcomes That Define Successful Advance Care Planning: A Delphi Panel Consensus 

January 1, 2018

Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Volume 55 – Issue 1: Development and Psychometric Properties of a Survey to Assess Barriers to Implementing Advance Care Planning in Primary Care

December 6, 2017 

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, Volume 17 – Number 164: Recognizing difficult trade-offs: values and treatment preferences for end-of-life care in a multi-site survey of adult patients in family practices

November 1, 2017

Journal of Cardiac Failure, Volume 23 – Issue 11: Barriers to Goals of Care Discussions With Patients Who Have Advanced Heart Failure: Results of a Multicenter Survey of Hospital-Based Cardiology Clinicians

September 1, 2017

BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care: Discordance between patients’ stated values and treatment preferences for end-of-life care: results of a multicentre survey

The Lancet: Oncology, Volume 18 – Issue 9: Definition and recommendations for advance care planning: an international consensus supported by the European Association for Palliative Care

July 31, 2017

Canadian Medical Association Journal, Volume 189 – Issue 30: Validation of quality indicators for end-of-life communication: results of a multicentre survey

June, 2017 

Journal of Critical Care, Volume 39: Development and initial evaluation of an online decision support tool for families of patients with critical illness: A multicenter pilot study

May 1, 2017

Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Volume 53 – Issue 5: Defining Advance Care Planning for Adults: A Consensus Definition From a Multidisciplinary Delphi Panel

April 1, 2017

Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Volume 53 – Issue 4: Measuring Advance Care Planning: Optimizing the Advance Care Planning Engagement Survey

September, 2016

Critical Care Medicine, Volume 44 – Issue 9: Predicting Performance Status 1 Year After Critical Illness in Patients 80 Years or Older: Development of a Multivariable Clinical Prediction Model

August 17, 2016

BMJ Quality & Safety: The prevalence of medical error related to end-of-life communication in Canadian hospitals: results of a multicentre observational study

April, 2015

JAMA Intern Medicine, Volume 175 – Issue 4: Barriers to Goals of Care Discussions With Seriously Ill Hospitalized Patients and Their Families: A Multicenter Survey of Clinicians

To live well, age well, and die well, you need to Plan Well