Step 2: Form an Advisory Group
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.
Benefits of an Advisory Group
An advisory group can offer several benefits:
- Community Support and Buy-In. This group can help win the support and interest of important community groups and other stakeholders, including local health care organizations and purchasers. This support is critical if your CAHPS project is the first effort of its kind in your area, and especially if you want it to serve as a springboard for further initiatives to measure and improve health care quality.
- Advice. This group can provide crucial advice on ways to incorporate a CAHPS project into the community's current and future efforts to inform various audiences about health care quality. They can also offer guidance on design, implementation, and communication issues.
- Feedback. An advisory group offers a mechanism for keeping stakeholders informed and eliciting their feedback on the project and the survey results. This is especially important for State-sponsored projects that must obtain public feedback.
- Channels. The group can serve as a key link to distribution channels for survey results. Members may suggest dissemination strategies or provide access to information venues that would not otherwise be available to the project sponsors.
Consider the following groups when selecting members of an external advisory group:
- Staff from your organization
- Tip: Include someone from the project team. To ensure continuity and clear communication, create some overlap between your project team and the advisory group. One way to do this is to include in the advisory group at least one key member of the project team; this person will serve as a liaison and contact person for the group. Be sure to select someone who is in a position to act on the group's suggestions.
- Health care organizations (particularly those whose quality is being assessed, but also those likely to review and use the results, such as health plans)
- Employers and other purchasers (e.g., county or State agencies such as Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program [SCHIP])
- Consumer advocates
- Social service organizations
- Legislative staff
- Policy analysts and researchers
- Regulatory and accreditation agencies
- Funding organizations (such as local health care foundations)
- Key internal officials (e.g., CEO) of the sponsoring organizations
- Outside technical experts. (Depending on the project, it may be useful to include experts in fields like literacy or survey research. These specialists can provide guidance on issues that are important to consider in planning and carrying out the survey project but may be beyond the project team's expertise. They may also lend greater authority and credibility to the project.)
Things To Consider
Role and Formation of the Group
- What role do you want the advisory group to play at each point in the project?
- Tip: Set clear expectations from the outset. Members of the advisory group should understand your expectations for their involvement from the beginning, even before they agree to participate. For example, if you expect mainly just to keep the committee informed of the project's progress, but they expect to have a decisionmaking role, they may feel very dissatisfied with their experience in the group and, by extension, with the project.
- Will a single group meet all your needs? Will the membership change over time?
- Are there any barriers to conducting the survey that advisory group members can help you overcome (e.g., getting sample frames from employers, health plans, or other health care organizations)?
- Who would be best suited to playing the roles you have identified for the group? (List specific individuals if possible; if not, list the types of people that would be useful [e.g., a medical director of a health plan].)
- Who will be responsible for recruiting the advisory group members? This person should document the names and affiliation of everyone who is invited to participate and their responses.
Meeting Schedule and Logistics
- How often will the advisory group meet?
- When will the first meeting take place and where?
- For how long will the group meet?
- Who will be responsible for arranging meetings and maintaining communication with the advisory group?
If You Don't Want a Formal Advisory Group
It is not critical to establish a formal advisory group. However, if you choose not to form such a group, find ways to involve representatives of stakeholder groups right from the beginning. The extent and nature of their involvement will vary by project and type of stakeholder.
At a minimum, the project team should periodically communicate with these individuals and groups to keep them well-informed about the project and its purpose and to seek their ideas and feedback on the project.