CAHPS Research on Survey Design and Administration

Through the CAHPS program, AHRQ supports ongoing efforts to identify and test strategies for improving the reliability, validity and usefulness of CAHPS surveys. Since the program's inception in the mid-1990s, the CAHPS Consortium has led or participated in research on survey design, sampling, and data collection strategies to ensure that survey users have the information they need to determine how to collect the best data possible. Specifically, CAHPS research focuses on investigating ways to produce survey scores that:

  • represent the target enrollee or patient population,
  • reflect their experiences with health care, and
  • can be compared across health care groups or organizations.

Research Meeting on Advances in Survey Methodology

In September 2018, AHRQ brought together researchers and key stakeholders to share findings about CAHPS survey administration methods, discuss stakeholders' needs and concerns, and identify important research questions. This research meeting focused on two related topics:

  • Improving response rates for CAHPS surveys
  • Ensuring the representativeness of respondents to CAHPS surveys

The speakers and participants included members of the CAHPS Consortium, other researchers working with CAHPS surveys, experts in survey methodology, representatives of Federal agencies that use CAHPS surveys, experts in patient-centered care, and other stakeholders such as health plans, health systems, and accrediting organizations. The presentations and discussion focused on three issues that point to priorities for future research:

  • The promise and challenges of various survey modes. Attendees articulated a need for additional research on:
    • feasibility and effectiveness of various survey modes, including "electronic" survey methods,
    • best sequencing of survey modes, and
    • strategies for maximizing response rates with mixed-mode survey administration.
  • Strategies for encouraging survey responses. Attendees supported additional testing of how the language in survey invitation letters and emails can be customized to motivate people to respond.
  • The potential impact of changes to survey length, design, and format. Attendees supported further experimentation with survey design and layout to improve standardization across modes, ease comprehension, and encourage respondents to complete the questions.

Read a summary of the September 2018 research meeting (PDF, 442KB).

Current and Recent Investigations

Under the current CAHPS V cooperative agreement, grantees investigating the impact of survey design, sampling strategies, and data collection methods are focused on the following questions:

  • What wording and presentation of elicitation materials is best for motivating people to complete CAHPS surveys?
  • How can CAHPS surveys be designed to make them maximally appealing to potential respondents?
  • How can electronic data collection be used in conjunction with other modes of data collection to maximize response rates?

Literature Review: The current initiatives expand on a variety of studies conducted by members of the CAHPS Consortium and other researchers. Strategies tested by the CAHPS team include changes to the survey design, format, and length; the use of incentives to encourage responses; alternative sampling frames and approaches to sampling; and the use of additional modes or modification to existing data collection approaches.

Key findings from these studies are summarized in the following literature review: CAHPS Survey Administration: What We Know and Potential Research Questions (PDF, 738 KB; 15 pages)

Selected Reading: Review a bibliography of published articles on CAHPS survey administration.

Page last reviewed February 2019
Page originally created February 2019
Internet Citation: CAHPS Research on Survey Design and Administration. Content last reviewed February 2019. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/cahps/surveys-guidance/survey-methods-research/index.html
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