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A hot topic in the ASC community is the OAS CAHPS Patient Experience Survey. There seems to be some confusion about the difference between the Patient Satisfaction Survey that most centers give to their patients and the CMS Patient Experience Survey. Here are a few facts and some available resources for more information.

What do all of the acronyms mean?
First, some alphabet soup…The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began the voluntary participation by hospital outpatient departments (HOPDs) and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) in the Outpatient and Ambulatory Surgery Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (OAS CAHPS) Survey in January, 2016.

Who gets the OAS CAHPS Survey?
The survey participants are any patient at least 18 years of age having a surgery and/or procedure in either an ASC or HOPD that is Medicare certified. It is NOT limited to patients with Medicare as a payer. The procedures or surgeries can be elective and/or medically necessary.

How many questions are on the survey?
There are 34 to 37 questions on the OAS CAHPS Patient Experience Survey. The exact number of questions varies because some questions are skipped depending on patient’s answers. That’s a lot of questions to get patients to answer!

What kind of questions are asked?
The questions are divided into 6 sections, and shown below are the corresponding questions in ():

  1. Before your procedure (2);
  2. About the facility and staff (6);
  3. Communications about your procedure (5);
  4. Your recovery (9);
  5. Your overall experience (2); and,
  6. About you (13).

How many patients have to complete the survey?
The sample size goal is 300 annual responses per Center during this voluntary period.

How is this survey given to your patients?
OAS CAHPS have designed standardized administration protocols by three methods. The 3 methods are: mail only, telephone only, and mail with a telephone follow-up. There is no email or online submission by patients and no hand delivered or mailed surveys by the facility. Only CMS approved and certified vendors will be allowed to administer the survey on behalf of HOPDs and ASCs. They will submit the data to RTI International (RTI is one of the world’s leading independent, nonprofit research and development organizations.). RTI International will analyze the data and the results will be reported on the CMS website in 2018.

Is HST a CMS approved vendor to administer the OAS CAHPS survey?
No. HST provides an extract file that you can submit to one of the approved OAS-CAHPS survey administration companies. The independent vendor will then conduct the surveys with your patients. The list of possible vendors that you may want to work with to meet the requirement can be found at: CMS Approved Vendors.

Is this OAS CAHPS Survey mandatory?
The voluntary participation has been extended through 2017. At that time, the questions will be reviewed and analyzed for their value in assessing the patients’ experiences. Some may be deleted, some may be added. There is no plan in the near future to allow/provide for email or online patient survey submission.

So how does this affect your Center’s current patient satisfaction surveys?
Well, that depends. You want to get as much information from you patients as possible and you may have your own specific questions. You also might want to investigate any negative results as soon as possible by following up with negative reviews as when they are received. If this is true for your center, you most likely want to continue to survey your patients your way. However, if you are already using one of the certified vendors, you can most likely use the CAHPS questions and your Center questions and continue to get your results as you have been.

The last bit of confusion, should you be asking the same questions as the CAHPS survey?
You are probably already asking some of the questions on the list. You are probably NOT asking 34-37 questions. There is no harm in asking similar or identical questions right now. When and if the survey becomes mandatory, you will not be allowed to ask the same questions as on the CAHPS survey. If you will be volunarily participating, there is no need to ask the same questions. The third party vendor will be asking the questions and will supply you with the results. You will not be allowed to use your non-CAPHS patient survey results for submission either voluntary or mandatory regardless of how you obtain these results (email, online, paper, or phone call). Why? First, the survey must be conducted by an independent certified third party surveyor. Second, the time and manpower required to administer a 34-37 question survey via mail, phone or mail with phone follow-up is probably not a viable or affordable option. Lastly, gathering, aggregating and submitting this data provides multiple opportunities for errors.

Short term advice, continue to focus on improving your patients’ experiences and your quality of care, stay informed, read the blogs, newsletters, and information about the OAS CAHPS survey. Long term, give your input whenever you have the opportunity to do so, stay active in the organizations that support your views and your agenda in Washington D.C., and continue to share what you know and learn with your colleagues.


Helpful Links:
ASCA website, OAS CAHPS Survey FAQs website,Outpatient and Ambulatory Surgery CAHPS (OAS CAHPS)
Official website, Outpatient and Ambulatory Surgery CAHPS (OAS CAHPS) Survey