Step 4: Plan a Communications Strategy
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.
Because sponsors have to collect data and address various other tasks before reporting the results, it is typical for project teams to want to focus first on developing questionnaires and implementing surveys before they turn their attention to issues related to reporting. However, the consumer-oriented principles underlying CAHPS call for the opposite approach: focus on reporting issues first, then on data collection and analysis.
To plan your communications strategy, you will need to answer several key questions that will influence the report itself as well as your efforts to disseminate it:
- In what format will your report be available?
- How will you let your audience know that the report exists? How will you generate interest in the report?
- How will you get the report to your audience?
- How will you encourage and help your audience to use the information?
- How will you know whether and where you have reached your audience?
To answer these questions, you need to first learn about the potential audiences for the information.
During the process of setting goals for your CAHPS survey project, the project team should have identified one or more audiences for the report. Your task now is to understand the following:
- The Characteristics of These Audiences. Start by gathering descriptive demographic data such as age, gender, ethnicity, and possibly education level. Some of this information may be available in enrollment, employment, or patient files, or through previous surveys of the population. Be sure to maintain the confidentiality of individual health information.
- The Information Needs of These Audiences. To gather information about your audience, you may need to conduct qualitative research, such as interviews and focus groups. Learn more about this topic from AHRQ’s TalkingQuality website: Who is the audience for your health care quality report?
Document the Implications
The characteristics and information needs of your audiences should shape the various elements of your communication strategy: the content and format of your report, the distribution method, and the ways in which you support and promote its use.
For example, if your audience is unfamiliar with health care quality issues, you may want to provide CAHPS results in the context of a broader educational effort. Or you may decide to take a more personal approach by conducting group meetings where the audience can hear a presentation, watch a video, ask questions, and discuss concerns with the sponsor's representatives.