Modifying and Naming Your CAHPS Survey

To maintain comparability and consistency across CAHPS® surveys, AHRQ offers the following guidelines regarding what changes you can make to a CAHPS survey and how to give proper attribution to the CAHPS program.

Modifying a CAHPS Survey

All CAHPS surveys are designed to achieve two important goals:

  • Standardization, through the use of a core set of items that all survey sponsors use, and
  • Customization, through the use of optional supplemental items that sponsors can use to gather whatever additional information they may need.

Adding to the Core Questionnaire

You can customize a CAHPS questionnaire to meet needs unique to your organization, your patient population, or your market by adding to the core items. You are welcome to use:

  • Supplemental items (and placement instructions) developed under the CAHPS program or
  • Items borrowed from other surveys or developed for your purposes, including open-ended questions.

As long as you retain all the core items of the CAHPS questionnaire, this instrument qualifies as a CAHPS survey and can be referred to as such.

Changing the Core Questionnaire

Some organizations use CAHPS surveys as starting points for a modified instrument. Changes to the core questionnaire would include any of the following:

  • Deleting one or more items.
  • Revising the wording of the items.
  • Revising the wording or order of response options.
  • Changing the order of items.

If you make these kinds of changes, the questionnaire is no longer considered a CAHPS survey. The successful use of CAHPS patient experience measures for reporting purposes depends on everyone fielding the same items. In addition, you cannot compare the results of your survey to those of similar organizations fielding a CAHPS survey or to aggregated scores from the CAHPS Database.

Naming Your Survey

AHRQ recognizes that survey sponsors may want to come up with their own name for their survey, and encourages the use of names that will be meaningful to respondents. There are no restrictions on the name you choose.

You may keep the "CAHPS®" brand in your name as long as you abide by the guidelines provided above, but you are not required to do so. If you do not use CAHPS in the name of your survey, AHRQ recommends that you acknowledge CAHPS in some way. For example:

  • As a tagline or subtitle: "[Your Survey Name], based on the CAHPS Clinician & Group Survey"
  • As a footnote, note, or source: CAHPS Clinician & Group Survey, U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

However, if your survey is based on a CAHPS survey but does not retain the wording and order of the core items, you may not use the CAHPS trademark in the title. You must come up with a different name.

Page last reviewed August 2017
Page originally created October 2011
Internet Citation: Modifying and Naming Your CAHPS Survey. Content last reviewed August 2017. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
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