Step 3: Define Your Project Goals
Review all steps in the process of planning a survey project:
- Step 1: Form a Project Team.
- Step 2: Form an Advisory Group.
- Step 3: Define Your Goals.
- Step 4: Plan a Communications Strategy.
- Step 5: Set the Stage for Conducting the Survey.
- Step 6: Develop an Evaluation Plan.
To start identifying the goals for your project, consider the following:
- What do you want to learn through the survey?
- How do you intend to use the information?
- What changes, if any, do you hope to bring about?
Your answers to these fundamental questions will provide the framework for many of the decisions involved in the implementation of a CAHPS survey. They will also serve as the parameters by which you will evaluate the project’s success when it is finished.
To help define goals, the project team should first come to agreement on the following issues:
Context for the Survey Project
- Is this project part of a bigger effort to educate consumers about health care quality? If so, what are these other projects? What role are the CAHPS survey and reports expected to play?
- Are you conducting a CAHPS survey for a specific reason (e.g., to respond to a State mandate, to meet NCQA's requirements)?
- Is this your first CAHPS survey project? Have your intended audiences (see below) seen this kind of information before? If so, what have they seen?
- Who are the audiences for the results of the CAHPS survey? Potential audiences include consumers, health care organizations, public and private purchasers, accrediting organizations, consumer advocates, and regulators and other quality monitors. How do you expect each of these audiences to use the information?
- Do you want to produce information to meet the needs of a specific segment of consumers (e.g., the elderly, parents of children under 18, individuals who are chronically ill)? If so, how do you expect their information needs and interests to differ from those of the general population? How might they use the information?
Scope of the Project
- How broad or narrow in scope do you want the project to be? How many people are you hoping to reach? How much information do you want to provide?
- What resources are available for the project? Consider staff resources, data analysis and graphic design capabilities, financial resources, and any constraints.
Examples of Appropriate Goals
Examples of reasonable goals for a CAHPS survey project include the following:
- Raise employees' awareness and understanding of differences in the quality of the plans and/or provider organizations available to them;
- Encourage health benefits managers to identify and offer health plans and providers that perform well on the CAHPS measures;
- Help Medicaid recipients identify and select the plans in their county that best meet the needs of children; and
- Help health care organizations identify the areas in which they need to improve their performance.
Make sure your goals are realistic given the financial resources, time, and staff available to you. If you have assembled an advisory group, you may want to review your project's goals with the group to ensure that you have heard and taken into consideration any concerns or different perspectives.
Documenting Your Decisions
Expressing your objectives as clearly as possible will help you determine
- Which instruments to use;
- Which population groups (and subgroups) to survey; and
- Which health care organizations (or products) to include.
These decisions are linked: Your choice of population groups and subgroups, for example, plays a role in determining which organizations and products to include and vice versa.
Be sure to document the decisions you make in support of your objectives and the reasoning behind them. They will affect how you implement the survey, how you report the results, and how you communicate with stakeholders about the project’s status and progress.