What Are CAHPS Supplemental Items?

Supplemental items are optional questions that survey users can add to their standardized CAHPS instruments to meet their specific information needs. For example, a user of the Clinician & Group Survey may want to ask patients to comment on their experiences with care or answer additional questions about care coordination. A user of the Health Plan Survey may want to ask enrollees about their experiences with interpreter services or health education.

CAHPS-approved supplemental items are available for the following surveys:

CAHPS Core Survey plus CAHPS Supplemental Items equals CAHPS Customized Survey

Browse supplemental items for the topics and questions that will meet your needs.

Lists of supplemental items developed for the Health Plan Survey 4.0 and the Clinician & Group Survey 2.0 can be downloaded with those specific surveys.

Learn more about the items developed for the Health Plan Survey 4.0: Supplemental Items To Support Improvement in Health Plan Quality.

Ways To Use Supplemental Items

Supplemental items are useful for multiple purposes:

  • Gather information about the experiences of a specific population. For example, you can use supplemental items to ask about interpreter services for consumers with limited proficiency in English.
  • Ask about domains or functions not included in the core questionnaire. For example, supplemental items ask about experiences with claims processing, health information technology, or specialists.
  • Examine other characteristics of respondents. For example, supplemental items can gather more information about the health status of respondents.
  • Obtain greater detail on experiences in a specific area. Once you have identified a general problem with a health care organization's performance, you can use supplemental items to "drill down" into the causes of those problems.

Important Instructions When Using Supplemental Items

 Reformatting items: After you copy one or more supplemental items into the core questionnaire:

  • Fix the formatting of the items as needed to fit into the two-column format.
  • Renumber the supplemental item and ALL subsequent items so that they are consecutive.
  • Revise ALL skip instructions in the questionnaire to make sure they point the respondent to the correct item number.

Maintaining item order: Some supplemental items are designed to be asked together (as a set) and in the specified order. The CAHPS team strongly recommends keeping the set intact and not changing the order of items. If you choose to ask a subset of those items, please confirm that the flow of questions will make sense to a respondent.  

Similarly, take care not to omit any screener questions that are designed to confirm that the items are relevant to the respondent (for example, if the item asks about experiences with care from a specialist, a screener question may ask whether the respondent saw a specialist).

Adding subheadings: Depending on which questions you choose, you may need to insert an appropriate subheading. The format of any new subheadings should be consistent with that of existing subheadings.

Page last reviewed May 2019
Page originally created June 2012
Internet Citation: What Are CAHPS Supplemental Items?. Content last reviewed May 2019. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://www.ahrq.gov/cahps/surveys-guidance/item-sets/index.html
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