Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys ask consumers and patients to report on and evaluate their experiences with health care. These surveys cover topics that are important to consumers and focus on aspects of quality that consumers are best qualified to assess, such as the communication skills of providers and ease of access to health care services. Users of CAHPS survey results include patients and consumers, quality monitors and regulators, provider organizations, health plans, community collaborative, and public and private purchasers of health care. These individuals and organizations use the survey results to inform their decisions and to improve the quality of health care services.
The CAHPS program is funded and overseen by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which works closely with a consortium of public and private research organizations. AHRQ and its grantees and contractors develop and maintain the CAHPS surveys. Over the past 15 years, the CAHPS Consortium has established a set of principles to guide the development of CAHPS surveys and related tools. These principles include identifying and supporting the consumer's or patient's information needs, conducting thorough scientific testing, ensuring comparability of data, maintaining an open development process, and keeping products in the public domain.
Oregon has been administering the CAHPS Health Plan survey (Medicaid) and the CAHPS PCMH Survey (all insurance types including Medicaid) among its Adult and Child population since 1998 and is one of the pioneer states that has pilot tested numerous quality improvement measures through the survey in collaboration with AHRQ. Two Coordinated Care Organization incentive measures (Access to Care and Satisfaction with Care) and one performance measure (Assistance with Tobacco Cessation) are derived from the CAHPS HP survey.
CAHPS surveys focus on aspects of care that meet two criteria:
- The people who received care are the best and/or only source of the information. CAHPS surveys do not attempt to collect information that can be gathered more effectively through other means (e.g., through medical records or from physicians).
- Consumers and patients identified the information as important to them. The CAHPS program devotes substantial resources to identifying and confirming issues that are salient to health care consumers and influence their decisions.
In order to support valid comparisons and benchmarking across health care settings and over time, all CAHPS surveys are standardized in the following aspects:
- The instrument. The contents and format of survey instruments are standardized so that everyone administering the survey is asking the same questions in the same way.
- The protocol. The protocols for fielding the survey are standardized so that everyone adopts the same approach to drawing the sample, communicating with potential respondents, and collecting the data. This is important because the method of survey administration can affect the data.
- The analysis. CAHPS surveys include a set of analysis programs and instructions to minimize variations in how sponsors and vendors process and interpret the results of the surveys.
- The reporting. CAHPS surveys benefit from a well-tested approach to presenting survey results. Users of survey results have access to reporting measures as well as guidelines that reflect "best practices" in reporting.