The CAHPS Program
The Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) program is a multi-year initiative of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Its purpose is to support investigator-led research to better understand patient experience with healthcare and develop scientifically valid and feasible strategies and tools to:
- Assess patient experience.
- Report survey results.
- Help organizations use the results to improve the quality of care.
For more than 25 years, research conducted under the CAHPS program has led to the development and widespread use of a variety of standardized patient surveys that enable healthcare providers, purchasers, and regulators to track, compare, and improve patients' experiences in different healthcare settings. The program has also supported a rigorous and broad research portfolio to ensure that CAHPS survey users can make informed decisions when designing and administering a survey to their populations of interest. In keeping with its mission as a research agency, AHRQ does not mandate the use of any CAHPS surveys or the use of any specific CAHPS sampling or survey administration methods.
AHRQ first launched the CAHPS program in October 1995 in response to concerns about the lack of good information about the quality of health plans from the enrollees' perspective. At that time, numerous public and private organizations collected information on enrollee and patient satisfaction, but those surveys varied from sponsor to sponsor, often changed from year to year, and did not provide actionable information on what actually happened during the delivery of care (i.e., the experience of care).
Over time, the program has expanded beyond its original focus on health plans to address a range of healthcare services and settings to meet the various needs of healthcare consumers, purchasers, health plans, providers, and policymakers. In 2022, the CAHPS program entered its sixth stage, often referred to as CAHPS VI, which builds on the work of earlier CAHPS grants (I-V).
Read about the CAHPS program’s accomplishments in its first 25 years.
The CAHPS Consortium
For CAHPS VI, AHRQ awarded 5-year grants to two private organizations, RAND and the Yale School of Public Health, to plan and conduct research for the CAHPS program. The Agency also contracts with Westat to support the program, assist users of CAHPS products, and manage the CAHPS Databases. Collectively, the Agency and these organizations are known as the CAHPS Consortium.
Responsibilities of the CAHPS Consortium: The Consortium is responsible for conceiving, developing, testing, and refining CAHPS surveys; investigating ways to facilitate the administration of patient experience surveys; and conducting research on the various uses of survey data.
Another responsibility of the Consortium is to determine whether patient experience surveys submitted to AHRQ by other survey developers meet the criteria for using the trademarked CAHPS name. To learn about the criteria and the survey submission process, please request a copy of "Getting the CAHPS® Trademark: A Guide for Survey Developers" (revised September 2022) from the CAHPS User Network at email@example.com or 1-800-492-9261.
Priorities in CAHPS VI
The two CAHPS grantees—Yale and RAND—pursue a variety of research projects, some of which are conducted collaboratively across the two research teams. This work includes:
- The development and testing of new surveys to measure patient experience (e.g., maternal care and inpatient mental health).
- The development and testing of survey items on specific topics (e.g., shared decision-making).
- Refinements to existing surveys and item sets.
- Survey methods research, including efforts to improve the effectiveness of survey administration methods.
- Evaluations of efforts to improve patient experience.
- Research on the use of narratives to improve patient experience.
The CAHPS User Network
The CAHPS User Network is the principal source of CAHPS survey products, information about CAHPS-related products and services, technical assistance for survey users, and networking opportunities for users and researchers. The User Network is funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and administered by Westat.
Through the User Network, the following information and services are available for free:
- Formatted surveys, administration guidelines, analysis programs, and other materials needed to conduct the CAHPS surveys.
- Educational webcasts, research meetings, and recorded interviews with CAHPS Consortium researchers and users of CAHPS products.
- Information about products at various stages of development and testing.
- Resources to support the implementation of a survey project, the public reporting of survey results, and the use of CAHPS surveys to improve quality.
- Comparative information based on aggregated results for select CAHPS surveys. Learn more about the CAHPS Databases.
- A Help Line where you can get one-on-one guidance for your project: 1-800-492-9261 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collaboration With Other Federal Agencies
Federal agencies that have played a role in the CAHPS program include the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). These agencies are all part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.