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Quality News

Enhancing Healthcare Quality: Understanding CAHPS And Patient Satisfaction Surveys

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have developed a comprehensive system of surveys, collectively known as Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems (CAHPS), to evaluate patient experiences across various healthcare settings.

Differentiating Experience From Satisfaction

While satisfaction surveys gauge overall contentment with care, patient experience surveys delve deeper into specific aspects of care delivery. These surveys focus on patients’ perceptions of critical elements such as communication with healthcare providers, understanding treatment plans, and coordinating healthcare services. Topics include:


  • Timeliness of care, appointments, and information

  • Communication with providers

  • Care coordination

  • Shared decision-making

  • Courteous and helpful support

  • Health promotion and education

  • Stewardship of patient resources

  • Overall ratings

The Role Of CAHPS Surveys

CAHPS surveys stand at the forefront of CMS’ efforts to improve healthcare quality in the United States. Developed under the oversight of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), CAHPS surveys follow rigorous scientific principles in design and development. These surveys are standardized, ensuring reliable assessment across diverse healthcare settings.


Assessment Schedules


Typically, the CAHPS survey kicks off in quarter four, going on to quarter one of the following performance year. Below is a sample schedule for CAHPS Surveys:

Data collection period: September – December

Preliminary Questionnaire: September

Reminders & Thank Yous: Later that month

Second Questionnaire: October

Telephone Follow-Up: November


Data Submission Deadline #1: October

Data Submission Deadline #2: November

The CAHPS Consortium, overseen by AHRQ, plays a central role in approving and refining CAHPS surveys. These surveys undergo extensive stakeholder input, including public solicitation of measures and technical expert panels. Moreover, many CAHPS measures are statistically adjusted to account for patient demographics and survey methodologies, allowing for fair provider comparisons.

Integration Into Value-Based Care

CAHPS surveys are not just instruments for gathering feedback; they are integral to CMS’ value-based purchasing initiatives and directly impact Shared Savings. Through programs like Pay for Performance, CMS incentivizes high-quality care delivery by incorporating patient experience metrics alongside clinical indicators. This shift in payment models underscores the importance of patient-centered care and elevates patient experience as a key determinant of healthcare reimbursement.​​

Empowering Patients And Providers

Through the CAHPS program, CMS has established a robust framework for assessing patient experiences across various healthcare settings. By leveraging standardized surveys, stakeholder collaboration, and value-based purchasing initiatives, CAHPS surveys pave the way for patient-centered care delivery and ongoing quality enhancement.

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