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) to support and promote the assessment of consumers' experiences with health care. The goals of the CAHPS program are twofold:

  • Develop standardized patient questionnaires that can be used to compare results across sponsors and over time.
  • Generate tools and resources that sponsors can use to produce understandable and usable comparative information for both consumers and health care providers.

Brief History

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 the surveys varied from sponsor to sponsor and often changed from year to year.

Over time, the program has expanded beyond its original focus on health plans to address a range of health care services and meet the various needs of health care consumers, purchasers, health plans, providers, and policymakers. The program is currently in its fourth stage, often referred to as CAHPS IV.

Read a literature review from 2005 that was designed to help AHRQ take stock of the program's past and its priorities for the future: Literature Review: Using Quality Information for Health Care Decisions and Quality Improvement, May 2005  ( PDF file PDF version - 238.5 KB; PDF Help).

Participants in the CAHPS Program

The CAHPS program is a collaborative effort of public and private research organizations. Collectively, these organizations are known as the CAHPS Consortium.

Private Sector Participants

AHRQ awards grants to private research organizations to conceive, develop, test, and refine the CAHPS survey products.

Under CAHPS IV (2012-2017) and CAHPS III (2007-2012)

  • Yale School of Public Health, Connecticut (previously referred to as the Harvard team)
  • RAND Corporation, California

Under CAHPS II (2002-2007)

  • Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts
  • RAND, California
  • American Institutes for Research (AIR), Washington, DC

Under CAHPS I (1996 to 2001)

  • Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts
  • RAND, California
  • Research Triangle Institute (RTI), North Carolina

Under contract to AHRQ, Westat provides support to the CAHPS Consortium and assists users of CAHPS products through the CAHPS User Network. Westat also manages the CAHPS Database.

Federal Agency Participants

In addition to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, several other Federal agencies contribute to the CAHPS program. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been a major partner in the CAHPS program since 1996.

Other partners include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). These agencies are all part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Page last reviewed June 2016
Page originally created January 2012
Internet Citation: The CAHPS Program. Content last reviewed June 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.