The word “hospice” derives from the Latin word hospes, meaning “host” or “guest.” Originally, the term meant a place of shelter for travelers, or what one thinks of today as a hotel or an inn. In medieval times hospices in England, France, Italy, and other European countries served as way stations for travelers on hazardous journeys to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
The modern definition of hospice — an interdisciplinary concept of providing comprehensive care to terminally ill patients — originated in England under the tutelage of Dame Cicely Sauder and crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the 1970s. Although Great Britain established hospices primarily as freestanding, inpatient facilities for the care of the terminally ill, in the United States hospices evolved into coordinated programs combining home care with inpatient beds that would meet the needs of patients within the specific community being serviced. As interest in hospices grew at the end of the 1970s, the Health Care Financing Administration (CFA) decided to sponsor a hospice demonstration program. This decision ultimately led to the establishment of the Medicare Hospice Benefit, under the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) of 1982.