What Is HCAHPS? Why Is It Important?


Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) usually refers to a survey created by the federal government. It is designed to measure how well hospitals are performing in the eyes of its patients. Generally speaking, it measures patient satisfaction. It’s pronounced “H-caps.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of public reporting of HCAHPS scores. To celebrate, let’s answer some common questions about it with help from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) website as our source.

Why Do HCAHPS Scores Matter?

How patients rate hospitals can impact the hospital’s bottom line. Of the things hospitals are measured on, they can face financial incentives or penalties (up to 2 percentage points of their annual payment update) based on whether they report results and how they score in 10 areas. Also, in the new era of hospital Value-Based Purchasing, how hospitals do on the survey accounts for how well they perform in the patient experience of care domain.

What Are Hospitals Measured on?

According to CMS:
■ Nurse Communication (Question 1, Q2, Q3)
■ Doctor Communication (Q5, Q6, Q7)
■ Responsiveness of Hospital Staff (Q4, Q11)
■ Pain Management (Q13, Q14)
■ Communication About Medicines (Q16, Q17)
■ Discharge Information (Q19, Q20)
■ Cleanliness of Hospital Environment (Q8)
■ Quietness of Hospital Environment (Q9)
■ Overall Rating of Hospital (Q21)
■ Willingness to Recommend Hospital (Q22)

How Does the HCAHPS Survey Take Place?

Patients are surveyed by mail or phone. Hospitals can conduct the surveys themselves or hire an outside group to do it for them. The information is collected monthly and reported quarterly. 

How Can I Find Out How Well My Hospital Scores?

You can look up the HCAHPS scores of your local hospital and compare its performance to how hospitals are performing across your state and the country on the Hospital Compare website: http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov 

How HCAHPS Holds Hospitals Accountable

The HCAHPS survey value lies in that it is a standardized measurement tool that makes it easy to compare one hospital to another and because the results are publically available. This type of transparency holds hospitals accountable.

To create the survey CMS partnered with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

According to them, there were three main goals for creating it were to:

1) “Produce comparable data on patients' perspectives of care that allows objective and meaningful comparisons among hospitals on topics that are important to consumers”

2) “Create incentives for hospitals to improve quality of care” because the results are available publicly

3) “Increase transparency and increase public accountability” because of public reporting

New for 2016

Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements have been influenced about how hospitals score on HCAHPS as a whole for inpatients. This year hospitals will also be held accountable for how well their emergency departments are performing. These scores will begin to affect reimbursements.

If you’d like more information on HCAHPS or talk about ways to help boost your Emergency Department’s scores, contact Donovan & Partners today. We bring to bear more than 20 years of experience in helping emergency departments assess opportunities and set up efficient and cost-effective processes to deliver quality care.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: “HCAHPS: Patients' Perspectives of Care Survey,”

“The HCAHPS Survey - Frequently Asked Questions.”