Palliative care is not a newly introduced approach to care. The earliest record of the Latin word palliate, meaning to conceal or alleviate symptoms without curing, dates to the 14th century. Formally introduced in 1990 by the World Health Organization, palliative care is currently defined as an approach to care which improves quality of life for patients and their families facing advanced life-threatening illness through prevention, assessment, and treatment of pain and other physical, psychological, and spiritual problems.
In 2011, the Joint Commission launched the Advanced Certification for Palliative Care program, which recognizes hospital inpatient programs demonstrating exceptional patient and family-centered care to optimize the quality of life for adult and pediatric patients with serious and advanced illness. By 2014, palliative care had grown to over 1,500 inpatient programs nationally. Currently, more than 85 percent of hospitals with 300 or more beds have a palliative care program, 90 percent of teaching hospitals have palliative services, and 90 percent of National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Centers have palliative care, while 78 percent of non-NCI cancer centers have palliative care available.