Distributing a CAHPS Report

The purpose of a distribution strategy is to ensure that your audience has easy access to information with CAHPS survey results at the time that they are most likely to pay attention to it and use it. The success of a CAHPS project often rides on the effectiveness of the distribution strategy: no matter how good your data are and how well you present it, your report has little value if it doesn't reach the people who can use it.

This page discusses several factors you should consider when deciding when and how to distribute your report. 

To learn more, go to Distribute Your Report on AHRQ's TalkingQuality Web site.

Your Audience's Preferences

  • How and where does your audience like to receive information?
  • Under what circumstances are they more likely to pay attention to information about health care services? For example, many people focus more on health care-related information received at home than information received at work.
  • Are they comfortable using computers to find information?
  • Do they prefer that information be printed or electronic? How are they most likely to use the information? For example, will they want to interact with it by taking notes or circling specific information? Or will they want to search through it quickly to compare different options?

Timing of Decisions

  • When will your audience be actively involved in making a decision? What does this imply for when they should receive the information so that they have time to review it and incorporate it into their decisionmaking process? It is important for the information to be neither too late nor too early. Keep in mind that different audiences may be making decisions at different times; benefit managers or agency staff making contracting decisions, for instance, will need to see survey results before employees or beneficiaries do.
  • Is the report likely to be relevant to potential users over a short period of time or year-round? For people with commercial coverage, for instance, the process of choosing a health plan typically takes place over a period of weeks or months (i.e., during open enrollment season). Medicaid recipients, on the other hand, may be selecting a plan at any time during the year.

Environment for Choice

  • What are the circumstances under which people are making a choice? For example, while patients may have a choice of hospitals, this choice is typically constrained by both their health insurer and their physician.
  • Do they have to make a choice? For some consumers, the health plan enrollment process is passive, which means that they automatically keep their existing plan unless they take specific action to change their enrollment. Those with active enrollment must take steps each year to re-enroll in their current plan or enroll in a new plan.

Related Information on Quality

  • Is this report part of a larger effort (your own or at the community level) to educate consumers about health care quality and informed choices? If so, the distribution strategy for your report should be coordinated with the distribution of any other materials.

Other Pertinent Information

  • What other information does your audience look at when making decisions? Consumers selecting a health plan, for example, typically rely on lists of participating providers, schedules of costs and benefits, and general information about the plans.
  • How do they get that information?
  • When do they get that information?

Distribution Options

  • What are the best options available for distributing an electronic report to your audience? Possibilities include:
    • The Internet
    • Your intranet
    • Stand-alone computers or computer kiosks
  • What are the best options available for distributing printed materials to your audience? Possibilities include:
    • Mailing them separately to homes. (One advantage of sending the guide to homes is that spouses, who are often involved in the decisionmaking process, will also be exposed to the information.)
    • Mailing them to homes as part of a larger packet of information. (For example, you could include survey results for doctors or health plans as part of a health plan enrollment packet. However, keep in mind that most people do not change plans, so they are unlikely to open the packet and see your information.)
  • Distributing them through local offices or units. (This approach is economical, but it depends on local managers to complete the distribution process, which is not always effective. If you must use this approach, be sure to stimulate demand for the information.)
  • Posting them on the Internet. (However, posting a document designed for print is not the same as developing an electronic guide, which should be designed specifically for the Web.)
  • Distributing them as e-mail attachments.

The Role of Information Intermediaries

Research studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that people often do not make decisions by themselves. They frequently depend on others—sometimes known as information intermediaries—for help. Examples of information intermediaries include:

  • Benefits managers
  • Beneficiary advocates
  • Consumer advocates
  • Educators
  • Counselors in community-based programs

Because these intermediaries can play an important role in explaining and disseminating CAHPS results, project teams need to carefully consider this group when making distribution decisions. In particular, the presence of intermediaries affects how you define your audiences, how you reach them, and when you distribute various materials.

To learn more, read Provide Access to Information Intermediaries in AHRQ’s TalkingQuality Web site.

Related Resources

How to Maximize Public Awareness and Use of Comparative Quality Reports Through Effective Promotion and Dissemination Strategies from AHRQ

Getting Tools Used from the Center for Advancing Health

Page last reviewed March 2016
Page originally created October 2012
Internet Citation: Distributing a CAHPS Report. Content last reviewed March 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://www.ahrq.gov/cahps/consumer-reporting/guidelines/distribution/index.html
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