What is HCAHPS, and why does it matter?

Out of 6,000-plus hospitals in the United States, more than 4,000 participate in a program that measures patient experience — the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). This survey polls patients about their hospital experience in an effort to help hospitals make continual improvements to their processes and procedures.

The nationally standardized survey ensures each hospital is consistently assessed by a cross-section of patients. Hospitals that provide acute care and are short-term and non-specialized can participate in the program; however, before they start offering HCAHPS surveys, they must get training from the federal government in the correct data-collection procedures.

Why HCAHPS is so important

There are more than 6,200 hospitals in the U.S. Patients may find it difficult to decide which one to go to for inpatient treatment, surgery, or childbirth. Many complex factors go into making this decision, including the type of care they need, the safety of the facility, and the price. That’s where HCAHPS comes in.

The goal of the HCAHPS survey is to make it easier for patients to compare hospitals. The survey aggregates data to form a comprehensive review of each hospital that can be compared against those of other hospitals. 

The survey includes 29 questions, 19 of which are about the hospital experience, three for screening, and seven covering patient demographics to adjust the mix of patients across hospitals for analytical purposes.

The areas of focus in the HCAHPS survey include

  • Communication with nurses and doctors
  • Staff responsiveness
  • Cleanliness and quietness of the hospital
  • Communication about medications
  • Care transition
  • Overall opinion of the hospital
  • Whether the patient would recommend the hospital to others

Medical errors cause an estimated 210,000 to 440,000 deaths each year. According to the Journal of Patient Safety, medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the country. This makes collecting and analyzing accurate national data on hospitals all the more important. Upwards of 8,400 patients complete HCAHPS surveys every day, which equates to millions of raw opinions about hospitals per year.

HCAHPS survey data is processed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which calculates and publicly reports the HCAHPS scores of each hospital. This valuable data is available to everyone on the Hospital Compare website. While part of the Medicare website, the surveys aren’t limited to Medicare patients. They empower consumers to make comparisons across all hospitals before picking the right one for their specific needs.

Which patients can you offer HCAHPS surveys to?

Because hospitals that participate in HCAHPS need to submit at least 300 completed patient surveys each year, it’s important to know which patients are eligible to take the survey.

The basic HCAHPS sampling procedure begins with a random selection of eligible discharged patients each month. This includes all adults who were admitted to the hospital, excluding psychiatric patients, and is not limited to Medicare patients. Hospitals offer patients the HCAHPS survey between 48 hours and six weeks after discharge, and they keep collecting the surveys continuously.

HCAHPS surveys can be sent to patients by mail, conducted by telephone, sent by mail with telephone follow-up, or conducted using active interactive voice recognition.

Where to find official HCAHPS survey forms

HCAHPS surveys can only be conducted by CMS-approved survey vendors and hospitals. CMS approval is required to ensure that the correct, up-to-date questions are asked and that the results are submitted for processing in a secure manner. 

Jotform provides several HCAHPS survey templates. In addition, you can use Jotform’s free patient satisfaction forms to securely collect additional patient information to help improve the performance of your hospital.

HCAHPS — improving standards of care

HCAHPS plays an integral role in helping consumers choose the right hospital for themselves or a loved one. The survey helps monitor patient safety, as well as other important factors like the hospital environment and how staff interact with patients. 

If you follow the correct HCAHPS survey procedures, you’ll contribute critical data on the performance of hospitals around the U.S. and be in a good position to improve your hospital’s commitment to healthcare quality, best practices, and clinical excellence.

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