CAHPS Best Practices & Tools for Success

CAHPS Best Practices & Tools for Success
In this article, we'll show you the best practices for running CAHPS compliant surveys

CAHPS surveys are essential in healthcare. Providers use these patient experience surveys to measure the quality of care at critical points of engagement. With a strong survey process, providers can effectively collect and act on patient feedback.

This article will cover CAHPS survey basics and best practices for successful administration.

CAHPS Surveys: The Basics

The Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems (CAHPS) survey is a way to monitor the quality of healthcare patients receive, hold providers accountable, and provide transparency for consumers seeking care.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) oversees the program, which leverages a standardized set of questions, mature security measures, and transparency to empower consumers making healthcare decisions.

What is the CAHPS survey used for?

The CAHPS survey measures the quality of care delivered by a healthcare provider. Depending on the care scenario, the patient or their family may complete the survey. For example, when working with an elderly patient, it’s likely the family will complete the CAHPS survey.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reports survey results publicly, and may affect payments to CMS providers. CAHPS surveys ensure CMS providers are held to a certain standard of care, and that consumers may make an informed decision when selecting a provider.

Who should conduct CAHPS surveys?

CAHPS surveys may be performed by various healthcare organizations, falling under four key categories:

  1. Patient Experience with Providers (Clinician & Group, Hospice, Home Health Care, Surgical Care, American Indian)
  2. Patient Experience with Condition-Specific Care (Cancer Care, Mental Health Care)
  3. Enrollee Experience with Health Plans and Related Programs (Health Plan, Dental Plan, Home and Community-Based Services)
  4. Patient Experience with Facility-Based Care (Emergency Department, Hospital, In-Center Hemodialysis, Nursing Home, Outpatient and Ambulatory Surgery)

Not all healthcare providers must run CAHPS surveys. However, CAHPS survey administration is required for participation in some federal healthcare reimbursement programs. Additionally, many patients prefer providers with public reviews they can trust.

CAHPS Survey Questions 

Below are some examples of CAHPS survey questions that you might want to consider using as templates for your own survey. As we’ve done here, it’s recommended to break up the questions into different sections such as the relationship between patient and doctor, patient health, and family healthcare. This helps the respondent have a clear idea of the general nature of the questions they are about to be asked. 

Remember, your aim for the survey is to keep the focus of your questions on the patients in order to collect relevant, detailed, and actionable data. To do this, make sure your questions are applicable to the widest range of individuals possible, that questions are standardized for easy comparison, and that your survey and its questions are framed in such a way that you capture only the most relevant data. 

Now let’s take a look at the sample CAHPS survey questions. 

Patient and doctor relationship

  • Do you have a regular doctor who you go to?
  • How often did you visit your doctor in the last six months?
  • Do you feel as though your doctor is perceptive to your needs and worries? 
  • Overall, how would you rate your doctor? Use the following scale: 1=Very bad 10=Excellent 

Overall patient health care and treatment 

  • How long has it been since your last health check-up?
  • Have you scheduled a checkup at your doctor’s clinic in the last 6 months?
  • Did you discuss with your doctor when you should start or stop taking your medications?

Family healthcare

  • How often did the medical team keep you updated on a family member’s condition when they were receiving treatment?
  • Did you at any time receive conflicting information about your family member’s treatment or health?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how did you find the communication from your family member’s healthcare provider? 1=Very bad 10=Excellent

CAHPS Hospice Survey Question Examples

The Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems (CAHPS) Hospice Survey is a patient experience survey that is distributed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). A CAHPS hospice survey collects insights and information in order to measure and assess the experiences of patients who have died while receiving hospice care as well as the experiences and opinions of those acting as informal primary caregivers.

Due to the fact that the intended recipients of a CAHPS hospice survey are either receiving hospice care or caring for someone who is, CAHPS hospice survey questions vary slightly from general CAHPS survey questions. 

Below are some examples of questions used in a CAHPS hospice survey. 

  1. Would you say you received the emotional support you required from the hospice team? 
  2. Were your treatment and care options fully explained to you by the hospice team? 
  3. How promptly were your requests for help responded to? 
  4. Would you say your personal preferences and wishes were taken into account by the hospice team? 
  5. What overall rating would you give the healthcare and treatment you currently receive by the hospice team?

What’s the Difference Between CAHPS and HCAHPS?

The HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) is, like the CAHPS, a survey program administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The HCAHPS survey program focuses solely on the experiences of hospital patients by asking questions which hone in on the detail of particular topics (for example, how well healthcare professionals communicate with their patients). These surveys are typically conducted over the phone in order to elicit the most detail possible from recipients and to give them the freedom to fully air their views. When the survey results are collected, the HCAHPS survey program uses this data to make comparisons between hospital quality across providers. 

In contrast, the CAHPS survey program is concerned with the experiences of Medicare beneficiaries and gathers data on their experiences by asking questions relating to the coordination of care and patient access to primary and specialty care services. Unlike the HCAHPS survey which is conducted over the telephone, the CAHPS survey program is usually conducted by sending surveys directly to patients. With the data it collects, the CAHPS team makes an assessment regarding the success of specific health plans and the effectiveness of medical providers.

Running a Successful CAHPS Survey

There are a few key components to successfully administering a CAHPS survey. As you’ll be collecting sensitive patient information, it’s vital that you consider your data privacy and security protocols.

Additionally, you should ensure you have the correct processes in place to ensure an optimal survey timeline.

What are the data privacy requirements of the CAHPS survey?

Since you’re collecting protected healthcare information, you must comply with HIPAA regulations regarding data privacy. As a result, you must leverage a survey platform with strong data privacy capabilities and train your team on properly handling this type of data.

What’s the target CAHPS survey response rate?

You should aim for a response rate of between 40-50%, according to AHRQ. You can improve your response rate by letting patients know they will receive a survey, sending reminders to complete the survey, and making it clear that you act on any feedback provided.

What’s the timeframe of a successful CAHPS survey?

The faster you can collect patient feedback, the more accurate it will be. If you wait too long after an appointment to administer the survey, patients are less likely to remember specific details of their visit.

If you discover an issue, it’s essential to follow up quickly and accurately to maintain a positive patient relationship. The longer you wait to follow up, the more likely a patient is to feel their concerns are being ignored or, worse, to find a new provider.

Improve CAHPS Surveys

By improving your CAHPS administration strategy, you can ensure your results are accurate, enabling you to improve your practice. Leverage a strong survey platform to help you administer and manage questionnaires.

Which survey platforms are ideal for running CAHPS surveys?

Checkbox’s secure survey platform is optimal for administering CAHPS surveys. With a HIPAA-compliant platform, you can administer surveys confidently, knowing your patient data is secure.

Checkbox also makes it easy to monitor and act on your results.

Which mistakes should be avoided when conducting CAHPS surveys?

Don’t wait too long to send out the survey or communicate results. By waiting to share the survey, patients will forget key details. Meanwhile, delaying communicating results reduces the efficacy of the feedback, as care providers will also have forgotten important information.

Don’t limit your sample size. Without enough feedback, you won’t have accurate insights into patient care experiences.

Run Effective CAHPS Surveys with Checkbox

CAHPS surveys are essential for healthcare providers looking to assess care quality and participate in federal healthcare reimbursement programs. Since you’re collecting protected patient data, ensure your survey processes comply with HIPAA.

Checkbox’s secure survey software is perfect for developing and executing CAHPS surveys. Try Checkbox for free now and join over 2,500 companies globally that use Checkbox to create secure surveys.

Or contact us directly, if you want On-prem or White-label version of Checkbox.

December 30, 2022
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CAHPS Best Practices & Tools for Success

In this article, we'll show you the best practices for running CAHPS compliant surveys