Principles Underlying CAHPS Surveys

In 1999, the CAHPS Consortium articulated a set of design principles that guided its work on the development of surveys and accompanying report formats.1 Over time, those principles have been refined to reflect the expansion of surveys and uses beyond public reporting to include performance assessment, quality improvement, and value-based purchasing. AHRQ requires that developers of CAHPS surveys and supplemental item sets comply with these principles to ensure the quality, comparability, and consistency of CAHPS products over time.

CAHPS Questions

  • CAHPS questions focus on aspects of care for which the patient is the best or only source of information. For example, only a patient can tell whether a doctor communicated in a way the patient could understand or whether the patient felt treated with respect.
  • CAHPS questions are understood and answered in a consistent way across a range of consumers.
  • CAHPS questions ask patients to report on only care they have experienced and/or can observe.
  • CAHPS questions ask about aspects of health care delivery that are important to patients.
  • CAHPS questions are consistent with existing standards of health care delivery.
  • CAHPS reporting questions provide an explicit time frame (e.g., in the past six months) or event reference (e.g., during your hospitalization).
  • CAHPS questions include an explicit reference to the clinician, organization, or facility that is the focus of the survey.

CAHPS Surveys

  • CAHPS surveys consist of a core set of questions that are administered to all respondents in a standardized manner.
  • CAHPS surveys are suitable for comparisons across heterogeneous populations.
  • CAHPS surveys can be self-administered.

1. Crofton C, Lubalin JS, Darby C. Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Study (CAHPSTM): Foreword. Medical Care 1999 March 37(3):MS1-MS9

Page last reviewed May 2017
Page originally created September 2013
Internet Citation: Principles Underlying CAHPS Surveys. Content last reviewed May 2017. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
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