Background: The complexity of health information often exceeds patients' skills to understand and use it.
Objective: To develop survey items assessing how well healthcare providers communicate health information.
Methods: Domains and items for the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Item Set for Addressing Health Literacy were identified through an environmental scan and input from stakeholders. The draft item set was translated into Spanish and pretested in both English and Spanish. The revised item set was field tested with a randomly selected sample of adult patients from 2 sites using mail and telephonic data collection. Item-scale correlations, confirmatory factor analysis, and internal consistency reliability estimates were estimated to assess how well the survey items performed and identify composite measures. Finally, we regressed the CAHPS global rating of the provider item on the CAHPS core communication composite and the new health literacy composites.
Results: A total of 601 completed surveys were obtained (52% response rate). Two composite measures were identified: (1) Communication to Improve Health Literacy (16 items); and (2) How Well Providers Communicate About Medicines (6 items). These 2 composites were significantly uniquely associated with the global rating of the provider (communication to improve health literacy: P<0.001, b=0.28; and communication about medicines composite: P=0.02, b=0.04). The 2 composites and the CAHPS core communication composite accounted for 51% of the variance in the global rating of the provider. A 5-item subset of the Communication to Improve Health Literacy composite accounted for 90% of the variance of the original 16-item composite.
Conclusions: This study provides support for reliability and validity of the CAHPS Item Set for Addressing Health Literacy. These items can serve to assess whether healthcare providers have communicated effectively with their patients and as a tool for quality improvement.