Using SPICT™

Why use SPICT™?

SPICT™ is a clinical tool used by health and care professionals in many countries to help them identify people living with one or more advanced, progressive conditions or a new serious illness whose health is deteriorating or likely to do so.

Many of people (particularly if they have organ failure, frailty or multimorbidity) are identified too late to benefit from well-coordinated future care planning and palliative care integrated with appropriate, ongoing treatment of their underlying illnesses.

SPICT™ helps clinicians decide when people can benefit from assessment of unmet holistic care needs. We start by talking with people and their families about what is important to them, their goals and preferences, and the available treatment and care options for them.

Ways to use SPICT™

  • SPICT™ has 6 general indicators of deteriorating health and increasing health and care needs. They can be used alone to prompt an assessment or combined with the SPICT indicators of advanced, progressive conditions.
  • SPICT™ summarises the six core aspects of care planning. 
  • SPICT™ is not designed as a ‘prognostic’ tool. When a person will deteriorate further and die is uncertain. Offer timely assessment and future care planning to everyone at risk of deteriorating health.
  • In some countries, access to palliative care and support (including financial benefits) depends on an assessment of life expectancy. Cohort research studies based on 2 or more SPICT general indicators give population risks of dying within 12 months, (See Publications)

Benefits of using SPICT™ 

  • Offers people opportunities to talk about their health declining and ‘what matters’ to them including things they hope to do, would like to happen or wish to avoid.
  • Gives priority to maintaining a person’s quality of life, and involving the people who are close to them
  • Ensures that disease-modifying treatments of benefit are combined with good symptom control and other aspects of palliative care
  • Reduces the risk of having to make complex treatment and care decisions in a ‘crisis’ by making an emergency care plan for an acute illness or a complication (or family caregiver illness)
  • Encourages people to appoint a proxy decision-maker (Power of Attorney) and/or make ‘advance decisions’ about any treatments they do not want in the future
  • Improves communication, continuity of care, current and future care planning; and multi-disciplinary team work
  • Includes family members and other carers so they receive the help and support they need.

What about the ‘Surprise question’ (SQ)?

There are several versions of the SQ that include a time frame (eg 6-12 months). The original SQ described by Dr Joanne Lynn asked about burden of illness and whether a person might be ‘sick enough to die‘.

  • It is important to avoid ‘prognostic paralysis’ which can delay appropriate assessment and care planning. We accept the inherent uncertainty of living and dying with advanced progressive conditions and talk with people about thinking ahead, including being well prepared for future decision-making.

Some people use the  SPICT™ with a version of the SQ.
We ask: Are there clinical indicators that the health of this person who has one or more progressive conditions is deteriorating?’

If =YES, then it is time to assess the person’s holistic care needs and start planning future care with them.

The RED-MAP framework guides care planning conversations with people whose health is deteriorating and their families.

It helps us share information, find out what is important, then agree goals and actions for the future health and care plan.

Download the RED-MAP framework for care planning conversations.

Play Video

Using SPICT – presented by Dr Kirsty Boyd
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Some ways of opening up a discussion about deteriorating health

  • What do you know about your health problems and what do you think might happen in future?
  • If you did get more unwell, what would be the most important things for you and your family?
  • Is there anything that is particularly important for you or your family that we should know about?
  • Sometimes people choose some family members or close friends to make decisions for them if they get less well……Is that something you’ve thought about? Have you talked to your family/ friends about it?
  • I am glad you feel better and I hope you will stay well, but I am worried about what might happen if …………
  • Have you thought about what you would like to happen if you became seriously ill? What would she say about a situation like that if we could ask her?
  • I wish we had more treatment for…..could we talk about what we can do if that is not possible/ is not going to help you?
  • Can we talk about how we might cope with not knowing exactly what will happen and when? What would be the best way for us to talk about that?

We use the RED-MAP model for future care planning conversations.