Making survey results easy to report to consumers: how reporting needs guided survey design in CAHPS. Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Study

Med Care. 1999 Mar;37(3 Suppl):MS32-40. doi: 10.1097/00005650-199903001-00004.


Objectives: CAHPS is designed to report information about health care quality from the consumer perspective. Enrollees are surveyed about their experiences with their health plan and medical care, and results are reported to other consumers choosing among health plans. Based on survey instruments designed to elicit reliable and valid information about health plan experiences from plan enrollees, the aim of the CAHPS team was to design a series of reporting products that present survey results so that consumers find the information understandable, meaningful, and useful in choosing among health plans.

Methods: Design of the survey instruments and reporting products were closely linked. The approach to reporting was based on previous research on consumers' information interests and needs in evaluating and choosing among plans. Cognitive tests were conducted with consumers to get their reactions to mock-ups of various approaches to reporting CAHPS survey results.

Results: Findings from previous research and cognitive testing, together with feedback from various experts and the public, were used to modify the survey questions, response options, and reporting formats to make it easier for consumers to understand and use reports. Changes included dropping topics of less interest to consumers, changing question wordings that were hard to understand, minimizing the number of different response categories, and revising questions to make them easier to group together for purposes of reporting.

Conclusions: The CAHPS focus on reporting results to consumers presented an unusual challenge for survey design, requiring close coordination between instrument design and report development to produce a survey and reporting kit that serves consumers' information needs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys / methods*
  • Humans
  • Information Services / organization & administration*
  • Insurance, Health / standards*
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Research Design
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality