Managing a CAHPS Survey Project

By developing a comprehensive project management strategy early on, you can ensure that your survey project runs smoothly and that your team is prepared to handle any unexpected problems. This section offers tips and considerations relevant to three management objectives:

  • Effective communication within and across teams.
  • Clear and realistic expectations for cost and timing.
  • A good working relationship with your vendor.

Effective Communication Within and Across Teams

Once you have set up your team, formed an advisory group, and contracted with a vendor, you will have to manage communication among these entities. The process of administering a CAHPS survey requires that multiple activities take place at the same time; decisions made in one area can have significant implications for other areas.

It is important to develop clear policies and procedures to keep all parties informed of the decisions being made and their implications. This communication and coordination will ensure that the leaders of each sub-team consult with and inform the project director and other team leaders of ongoing activities and changes that might affect them. Such policies and procedures are particularly important if you have an advisory group in addition to your project team, or if you are working with other organizations for the first time.

Ways to encourage good communication include the following:

  • Ensure some overlap of membership in key groups.
  • Hold regular meetings.
  • Use e-mail or other applications to keep everyone updated.
  • Establish procedures for documenting the survey and its changes.

Clear and Realistic Expectations for Costs and Timing

A clear budget and a realistic schedule are two of the most important elements of an effective project management strategy. Both will evolve over time, especially as you move beyond the design phase into the implementation phase. Thus, keeping the budget and schedule in mind as you formulate and adjust your project design helps you to maintain feasible plans and realistic goals.

Four Steps to Developing a Budget and Schedule for a Survey Project

Consider all the potential project components; each has related cost and scheduling implications. Categories for likely tasks and activities include:

  1. Project planning and coordination
  • Consultation with technical experts
  • Advisory group (both establishing and maintaining it)
  • Data collection
  • Translation of questionnaire/materials (some CAHPS surveys already have a Spanish-language version, but you may wish to conduct the survey in another language)
  • Data analysis
  • Design of report(s)
  • Production of report(s)
  • Distribution to key audiences, including providers
  • Dissemination and promotion
  1. Create a budget and a schedule for the project you would ideally like to carry out.
  2. Adjust as needed given your available resources, existing deadlines, and design parameters.
  3. Add a cushion for unexpected expenses and account for tasks that might take longer than anticipated.

16 Questions To Help Estimate the Costs and Timing of a Survey Project

To help estimate how much each component of the project will cost and how long it will take to accomplish a task, answer the following questions:

Scale of the Project

  1. Is your CAHPS survey project part of a broader effort to inform your audience about health care quality and choice?
  2. What will be the scope of publicity and dissemination efforts?
  3. How many reports will you produce? How many audiences are you trying to reach?

Size of the Survey

  1. How many health plans or provider organizations are you including?
  2. What is the size of the geographic area covered by the survey?
  3. Will you conduct the survey by mail, telephone, or both?
  4. How many questionnaires will you send? How many telephone interviews will you conduct?
  5. For how long will you field the survey?
  6. How many items will your survey include?
  7. How many surveys will you need to field to achieve the target number of completed surveys?

Characteristics of the Survey Population

  1. Do you need to translate the questionnaire or reports for non-English-speaking populations?
  2. Do the respondents include low literacy or elderly populations?
  3. What is the quality of your contact information?

Number of Vendors/Consultants and Their Responsibilities

  1. To what extent will in-house resources and expertise suffice?
  2. Will you need to hire a reports vendor as well as a survey vendor?
  3. What types of consultants, and how many, will you need to advise you on technical issues?

A Good Working Relationship With Your Vendor

Once you have selected one or more vendors, you will need to monitor their progress, work with them to overcome any setbacks they encounter, and ensure that they meet the expectations you have established.

Monitoring the Survey Administration

Once the contract is awarded and the survey vendor gets started on your CAHPS project, you can monitor progress through regular communications and scheduled updates. The following tools can help with the task of overseeing your vendor:

  • A project timeline from the vendor. Match their timeline with yours and make sure the two are consistent. Monitoring adherence to the projected timeline is the first step in assuring that your project is proceeding appropriately.
  • Weekly data collection reports from the vendor.
  • Monthly progress reports, which should detail the current status of data collection and project costs, as well as any deviations from the project goals.
  • Weekly conference calls with the project team and the vendor to discuss their progress, next steps, any problems, and plans to resolve them. Regular meetings within your team and with the vendor to review the project’s status and schedule will keep you updated and bring early attention to any potential problems.

Monitoring the Development of Reports

The reporting task begins when you have received the data file and output from the analysis program from your vendor. If you are also using a vendor to produce online or printed reports, your job is to oversee the vendor's work and to ensure that they understand the reporting needs of your audiences.

Review guidelines for reporting the results of CAHPS surveys.

Page last reviewed October 2018
Page originally created March 2012
Internet Citation: Managing a CAHPS Survey Project. Content last reviewed October 2018. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
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