Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Survey

The intent of the government’s HCAHPS survey is simple: to provide an easy way for consumers to make “apples-to-apples” comparisons between hospitals when they choose where they want to receive care.

Hospitals have to make choices, too. And the choices they make can significantly impact the reimbursements they receive from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) through the PRC VBP Summary FFY2019. When hospitals choose Professional Research Consultants, Inc., (PRC) as their research partner, they commit their organizations to enhancing patient perceptions, driving greater loyalty, and improving institutional performance. PRC clients choose to pursue excellence.


Why choose PRC?

For over 35 years, PRC has been dedicated to making hospitals, clinics, and healthcare systems better places for patients to be treated, physicians to practice medicine, and employees to work. PRC is not only the nation’s largest privately held healthcare-exclusive custom research firm, it is also the only one measuring excellence with its five-point scale.

Core HCAHPS survey questions do not measure excellence, but hospitals can combine the required core items with customized, hospital-specific questions to more effectively analyze where to invest resources to improve performance.

Why is excellence important? Among the surveyed patients who rated the care they received as EXCELLENT, 88 percent said that the likelihood they would recommend the hospital to others was also EXCELLENT. Excellence is a foundation for growth, and PRC is the only custom research partner committed to helping hospitals achieve excellence.

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But there are more reasons to choose PRC:

PRC has a perfect on-time submission record. We have never missed an HCAHPS deadline.

PRC has been a CMS-approved vendor for the HCAHPS survey since its inception in October 2006—and has helped shape, test, and administer the survey for our hospital clients.

PRC is a pioneer in accurate, timely, and reliable telephone research. Our documented expertise in conducting telephone surveys with patients shows that this methodology is the most reliable way to collect responses that accurately reflect patient perceptions. Telephone surveys reduce lag time, engage patients directly and reach a representative cross-section of the patient population. They also generate the highest completion rates.

PRC’s® applications empower clients to create customized reports to shape the story the data reveal. This powerful tool and the training to use it are provided at no additional cost.

PRC has a proven track record of providing a return on investment. The majority of PRC clients score higher than the national average on their overall HCAHPS scores, which increases the likelihood  that those higher-scoring clients will receive CMS reimbursements through the VBP program.

How does the process work?

HCAHPS Schedule 2016

Click image to see the HCAHPS schedule for 2017.

PRC is a partner in every sense of the word — we define success the way our clients define success. We understand the regulatory, demographic, and financial challenges hospitals face in today’s marketplace. Everything we do is designed to help hospitals build a reputation for excellence among all of its stakeholders, including patients, physicians, medical and non-medical staff, communities and government agencies.

Because most hospitals now qualify for the pay-for-performance incentives in the VBP program, it is very important to work with a survey partner, like PRC, that can navigate the survey process and help hospitals achieve their incentive targets.

PRC begins by pairing research professionals with hospital teams to assess needs, evaluate approaches, develop an implementation plan, and formulate and test survey items.

Data will populate within minutes of responses being recorded, offering clients real-time results. In the meantime, PRC will train clients to use the tool to review, analyze and communicate results strategically.

PRC can also help hospitals interpret data and develop action plans to address issues, focus on Key Drivers of Excellence®, and improve performance. Follow-up is a phone call or email away. There is no expiration date on PRC’s expertise.

What does HCAHPS measure?

PRC works with hospitals to identify a representative sample of patients who are eligible to take the survey — generally, adults with overnight stays but without a principal psychiatric diagnosis.

Below is a table showing the aspects of care measured by HCAHPS. CMS reports individual hospitals’ results on the Hospital Compare website. It is important to remember that with PRC, hospitals can take advantage of the opportunity to customize additional survey questions, to learn more about what patients value and how they feel about the care hospitals deliver. PRC is the only research firm measuring excellence on its five-point scale. Excellence is a Higher Standard than Always®

HCAHPS Dimensions

HCAHPS Dimensions  
Communications with Nurses 3 questions (Always - Never)
Communications with Doctors 3 questions (Always - Never)
Responsiveness of Staff 2 questions (Always - Never)
Pain Management 2 questions (Always - Never)
Communication about Medications 2 questions (Always - Never)
Hospital Environment 2 questions (Always - Never)
Discharge Information 2 questions (Yes/No)
Care Transition 3 questions (Strongly Agree - Strongly Disagree)
Likelihood to Recommend 1 question (Definitely Yes – Definitely No)
Overall Rating 1 question (0 - 10)

Value-Based Purchasing — one more way PRC adds value

CMS’ Value-Based Purchasing program for hospitals adjusts the level of Medicare reimbursements hospitals earn to reward organizations that provide higher-quality care and penalize facilities that offer lower-quality care. The idea behind VBP is to encourage continuous improvement in the quality of care while holding hospitals accountable for the care they deliver.

Every year, CMS withholds a percentage of the base operating diagnosis-related group (DRG) payments to fund the program. Then, depending on performance, hospitals have the opportunity to earn that money back. July 2011 kicked off the first Performance Period for which HCAHPS scores were evaluated and applied to the Medicare incentive rates paid during Federal Fiscal Year 2013. Factors used to assess hospital performance vary year by year, and are selected by CMS.

Our CAHPS Coordinator Laura VanEpps provided an overview of VBP for the FFY 2018 payment year in this webcast:


For the FFY 2018 VBP program, hospitals will be evaluated on Clinical Outcomes, Safety, Efficiency, and Patient Experience of Care Measures, such as HCAHPS. Remember: CMS recently performed a "dimension-ectomy" when it suspended the inclusion of a Pain Management dimension in the calculation of the HCAHPS domain of its VBP program. To get a more detailed look at the FFY 2018 program, review PRC's VBP Summary FFY 2018. Two percent of the base operating DRG payment is at risk in FFY 2018. 

PRC partners with client hospitals to understand their challenges and capitalize on their opportunities to maximize Medicare reimbursements. We offer access to tools, such as and PRC’s VBP Calculator, to give clients the big picture.

  • 62% of PRC's current clients earned a VBP bonus in FFY 2016. 
  • 34% of PRC clients improved their Total Performance Score from the previous year 
  • 30% of PRC clients improved their Total HCAHPS Score from last year. Because the Achievement Threshold and                    Benchmark change from year to year and represent a moving target, this is a significant accomplishment.

PRC clients know that working through federal requirements can be difficult. But they also know that working with PRC is easy. Email us to find out how.

Baseline Period Performance Period Payment Period
2011 2013 2015
2012 2014 2016
2013 2015 2017
2014 2016 2018

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