Palliative care wasn't officially recognized as a specialty until two years ago. But it is fast taking hold in hospitals throughout the country, and, in the process, helping to make better use of limited healthcare dollars. Nationwide, 1,299 hospitals today have palliative care programs, up from 632 in 2000, according to the Center to Advance Palliative Care. In Wisconsin, 64% of hospitals with more than 50 beds have some type of palliative care program, according to a study published this month in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. That's higher than the national average of 53%, but less than the average for 18 other states and the District of Columbia.