The relationship between spirituality and medicine has been the focus of considerable interest in recent years. Studies suggest that many patients believe spirituality plays an important role in their lives, that there is a positive correlation between a patient's spirituality or religious commitment and health outcomes, and that patients would like physicians to consider these factors in their medical care. A spiritual assessment as part of a medical encounter is a practical first step in incorporating consideration of a patient's spirituality into medical practice. The HOPE questions provide a formal tool that may be used in this process. The HOPE concepts for discussion are as follows: H--sources of hope, strength, comfort, meaning, peace, love and connection; O--the role of organized religion for the patient; P--personal spirituality and practices; E--effects on medical care and end-of-life decisions.