The Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys have done much over the last several years to encourage increased focus on the patient experience by tying patient survey scores to a portion of Medicare reimbursement.
Where many feel CAHPS has fallen short, however, is in potentially creating the impression that a static, standardized national survey is a sufficient tool for assessing the patient experience, let alone serving as a jumping point for improvement. What more and more healthcare leaders are recognizing is that CAHPS surveys alone simply are not enough.
Scientific research bears this argument out. A recent article in the journal Health Marketing Quarterly reviewed the validity and usefulness of HCAHPS. The authors concluded that the HCAHPS survey is an excellent beginning, with some problematic elements.
The results of the study closely mirror the findings of similar analyses conducted by Avatar. In one such analysis, Avatar researchers compared the scores of clients who use an Avatar patient survey in conjunction with HCAHPS against the scores of those who use HCAHPS only. The researchers found that clients who use an Avatar survey in conjunction with HCAHPS perform significantly better than clients who use HCAHPS only.
So why the discrepancy in scores among users of a robust, customized survey tool and users who limit themselves to the CAHPS survey? HCAHPS measures only a small portion of the patient experience. Many other service and care factors are important or even central to the patient experience. As a case in point, a regression analysis performed by Avatar researchers found that HCAHPS predicted only 38.6% of variance in Overall Hospital Rating and 35.8% of Recommend. As such, HCAHPS is not providing complete information on the patient experience, potentially leaving organizations with missed opportunities to improve performance.
This is one of the reasons why surveys customized at the point of generation to reflect the individual patient experience are so powerful. Adding items addressing services that an individual patient has received allows organizations to collect more accurate, more comprehensive data on the patient experience, extending the reach and specificity of their performance improvement initiatives.
While existing and emerging CAHPS programs have helped shift healthcare to a culture with increased focus on the patient experience, the demand this focus places on healthcare leaders to identify and improve service gaps underpins the reasons why CAHPS survey questions aren’t enough. Customized, diagnostic surveys measuring each specific aspect of the individual patient’s experience have proven a powerful tool for driving significant gains in experience scores, and thus are the natural complement to any CAHPS program.