CAHPS Adult Hospital Survey

The Adult version of the CAHPS Hospital Survey (HCAHPS) asks people 18 and older about their experiences with medical, surgical, or obstetric care provided in an inpatient setting.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implements the Adult version of HCAHPS on a national basis. As of July 2015, more than 4,100 hospitals across the country are using this survey and voluntarily reporting data to CMS.1

The Adult HCAHPS Survey and administrative guidelines are available from CMS: www.hcahpsonline.org. These materials are not available on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Web site.

For information and technical assistance, contact the HCAHPS Project Team (hcahps@HCQIS.org or 1-888-884-4007) or CMS staff (Hospitalcahps@cms.hhs.gov).

Supplemental Items

AHRQ has developed some supplemental items for the Adult version of HCAHPS. The items address two topics:

  • Health literacyThese items assess the extent to which professionals in hospital settings are reducing the health literacy demands they place on patients. Learn More: About the CAHPS Health Literacy Item Set for Hospitals (PDF, 291 KB)
  • Interpreter services—These items assess patients' experiences with interpreter services in hospitals.

Download the supplemental items in English and Spanish (ZIP, 576 KB).

CMS's Use of the Adult Hospital Survey

CMS uses the results of this survey in two ways:

  • Public reporting: As part of the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting program, CMS reports the results of the Adult Survey on Hospital Compare. First released in March 2008, these results are updated quarterly.
  • Value-based purchasing: As part of the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing program, CMS is adjusting a portion of payments to hospitals based on their performance on the survey and the quality of their clinical care.

Quality Measures From the Adult Hospital Survey

The Adult version of HCAHPS produces ten measures of patient experience: six composite measures, two individual items, and two global ratings. Composite measures combine two or more survey questions that are statistically and conceptually related.

The measures are as follows:

  • Communication with nurses (composite measure)
  • Communication with doctors (composite measure)
  • Communication about medicines (composite measure)
  • Responsiveness of hospital staff (composite measure)
  • Discharge information (composite measure)
  • Pain management (composite measure)
  • Cleanliness of hospital environment (single-item measure)
  • Quietness of hospital environment (single-item measure)
  • Overall rating of hospital (global rating; single-item measure)
  • Willingness to recommend the hospital (global rating; single-item measure)

The survey also includes three questions about the transition to post-hospital care, one about admission through the emergency room, and one about mental and emotional health.

Compare Hospital Survey Data

Comparative information for the Adult Hospital Survey is available at the national level as well as for some States and communities. Sources of comparative information for the CAHPS Hospital Survey include the following:

  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) HospitalCompare Web site presents average scores for all hospitals in the nation and all hospitals in a given state.
  • CMS also provides summary analyses for current and historic Hospital Survey results.
  • Many organizations produce public reports that show survey results for hospitals at the local or State level.

Brief History

Beginning in 2002, CMS partnered with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to develop and test a survey of patients' experiences with hospital care. AHRQ carried out a rigorous scientific process, including a public call for measures; review of literature; cognitive interviews; consumer focus groups; stakeholder input; a three-state pilot test; extensive psychometric analyses; consumer testing; and numerous small-scale field tests. During this process, CMS provided three separate opportunities for the public to comment on HCAHPS, and responded to well over one thousand comments.

The CAHPS Hospital Survey was first endorsed by the National Quality Forum (NQF) in May 2005. In December 2005, the federal Office of Management and Budget gave its final approval for the national implementation of HCAHPS for public reporting purposes. CMS implemented the HCAHPS survey in October 2006, and the first public reporting of HCAHPS results occurred in March 2008. In January 2015, NQF renewed its endorsement of the CAHPS Adult Hospital Survey. The survey, its methodology, and the results it produces are in the public domain.

Learn more about the development of the CAHPS Adult Hospital Survey.

1. HCAHPS Executive Insight. Available at http://www.hcahpsonline.org/executive_insight/default.aspx. Spring 2015. Accessed 2/15/17.

Page last reviewed July 2017
Page originally created August 2014
Internet Citation: CAHPS Adult Hospital Survey. Content last reviewed July 2017. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/cahps/surveys-guidance/hospital/about/adult_hp_survey.html