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Incorporate HCAHPS changes into your patient experience strategy

The healthcare landscape is perpetually evolving, demanding that organizations remain agile and well-informed while delivering the best possible care. This adaptability is especially important with upcoming changes to the HCAHPS Survey, slated for implementation in January 2025. These enhancements are designed to heighten the survey’s relevance and efficiency, aligning it more closely with the dynamic needs of today’s healthcare environment.  

This shift underscores a broader trend in the healthcare industry: the transformation of patient-feedback collection and analysis to meet patients where they are in their unique healthcare journeys. As the industry progresses, methods, and strategies to gather, interpret, and act on patient feedback must also advance. 

NRC Health’s vast expertise in CAHPS and our innovative methods provide healthcare organizations with the necessary tools and insights to deliver exceptional care and craft long-term patient experience strategies. 

Impact and adaptation strategies

The HCAHPS Survey is undergoing significant modifications, including the introduction of three new CMS-approved administration web modes: web-mail, web-phone, and web-mail-phone. Each survey will now incorporate a maximum of 12 supplemental questions, with an extended data-collection period of 49 days, up from 42.  

The updates will also include the option for proxy respondents, while discontinuing IVR as a survey-administration mode. These alterations necessitate a re-evaluation of current practices within organizations. For example, the shift toward web-based modes will require the acquisition of patients’ email addresses, potentially influencing the demographic of respondents, as younger patients may prefer online surveys.  

Additionally, the HCAHPS Survey questions are undergoing a revision. The existing survey comprises 29 questions, whereas the revised version will contain 32. This includes the subtraction of five questions and the inclusion of eight new ones. These modifications will affect the survey’s dimensions and, consequently, public reporting.  

These comprehensive changes carry significant implications. Organizations will need to review and modify their current practices to align with the new protocols. This may encompass alterations in data-collection methods, survey administration, and public reporting practices. 

Effective goal setting with survey questions

When setting goals for the questions being asked, it’s essential to ask the following:  

  • Are these questions under review? 
  • Do they feature in any reports?  
  • Are there incentives associated with these questions?  

The answers will determine the necessity of retaining these questions. If most responses are negative, qualitative feedback might be a more effective way to obtain this information.  

The rise of email surveys has led to an increase in open-ended feedback from respondents, which can be a goldmine for identifying areas for improvement or praise. There could also be questions that are not currently deemed supplemental, but are vital to your organization’s operations. These may need to retain their supplemental status.  

The implications of question changes on goal setting is another aspect that should remain a priority. Organizations often link goals and incentives to certain questions. Removing these questions will require a reassessment of goals. Similarly, introducing new questions will also affect goal setting. For accurate and attainable goal setting, NRC Health recommends that organizations have baseline of information to analyze.  

“The best practice would be to have a baseline of information, best practice of 90 days or three months worth of data that you can take and utilize and say, ‘well, this is really how I’m performing on these metrics.’ ‘Here’s the goal I’m going to set,’ that way it’s accurate.,” said NRC Health Director of Customer Success Jason Messerli in a recent CAHPS Insider Live webcast. “It’s definitely something to consider as you look at goal setting and that’s something that we can be a resource on as well.” 

Stay informed with NRC Health

The forthcoming changes to the HCAHPS Survey are significant, requiring organizations to adapt their current methodologies. While this transition may seem challenging, it presents a valuable opportunity for organizations to refine their survey-administration and data-collection processes. By embracing a proactive and informed approach, organizations can enhance the accuracy and relevance of their data, ultimately leading to better patient care. 

Check out NRC Health’s additional CAHPS resources and latest CAHPS Insider reports to stay informed.