Improving CAHPS with Drill-Down and Simulation Surveys

July 17, 2017

SPH Analytics (SPH) was excited to be a Silver Sponsor for the RISE Qualipalooza Quality Leadership Summit held in San Antonio in June. We also hosted a session about improving CAHPS® scores by using CAHPS Drill-Down and Simulation Surveys.  The session provided examples and best practices from health plans that have used these surveys to improve performance.

Linda Lynch, Performance Improvement Consultant with SPH, served as moderator and was joined by two of our clients who shared concrete examples of how they have conducted Drill-Down Surveys to focus their improvement efforts.

Drill-Down and Simulation Surveys

Before embarking on either a Drill-Down or Simulation Survey (or both), it is very important to determine your objectives for conducting such a survey and how you wish to use the results.  A Simulation Survey is appropriate if you want to track results and tweak your improvement activities between regulatory CAHPS Survey cycles.  It is also helpful in providing a baseline before conducting an NCQA- or CMS-required survey.  Health plans can also enhance and segment their sample to allow analysis of results among sub-groups for effectively targeting improvement initiatives.

A Drill-Down Survey helps you understand what is driving member scores for CAHPS.  Core CAHPS questions, followed by in-depth supplemental questions to determine what problems, barriers, and negative experiences members have encountered.  Open-ended questions, even those not allowed by NCQA or CMS during the regulatory survey, can capture perceptions directly from members so your organization doesn’t have to guess about what needs to be fixed.

With either survey option, SPH provides comprehensive analytics and reporting with actionable insights.

Key Considerations for Survey Administration

Depending on your objectives and the key survey areas of focus, SPH will help you select the optimal sample size and population segmentation. The best time to conduct one of these surveys is between July 1 and January 31, outside the regulatory schedule, so if you’re interested, now is the time to act. Drill-Down and Simulation Surveys can be used for your Medicare, Medicaid, commercial, and QHP (marketplace) members.

Tactical Action Plans at the Group Level

Christina Latterell, Vice President of Quality Improvement and Risk Adjustment for Alignment Healthcare, explained at the conference how Alignment Healthcare used a Medicare CAHPS Drill-Down Survey to generate results by provider group.

The plan then went to each group to educate them about their results, to show blinded comparisons to other groups, and to provide tactical action plans for improvement at the group level.

Focus on Improvements Important to Members

David Larsen, Director of Quality Improvement at SelectHealth, demonstrated how SelectHealth has used CAHPS Drill-Down Surveys for their commercial and Medicaid populations and increased their sample sizes to allow analysis by region, high-deductible plan members, and medical groups versus affiliate clinics.  SelectHealth also uses the Drill-Down Survey to ask all their custom questions, so the plan can avoid adding length to their official CAHPS Surveys with additional custom questions.

The information from the Drill-Down surveys allows SelectHealth to focus on specific areas of improvement that are important to members.

At the RISE conference, SPH was able to provide on-demand quotes for CAHPS Drill-Down and Simulation Surveys.  You can still take advantage of this opportunity by contacting SPH or talking to your Sales Executive if you are a current client.

We look forward to helping you continue to improve your performance and member satisfaction with CAHPS Drill-Down and Simulation Surveys.


CAHPS® is a registered trademark of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

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