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Are Traditional Patient Experience Surveys Flawed?


In part one of a two-part podcast, patient experience consultant William Maples talks to us about the problem with the HCHAPS and CG-CAHPS surveys.

Welcome to the latest edition of the Physicians Practice Pearls Podcast. In this podcast, we'll aim to bring you some of the most interesting and influential guests in healthcare. If you have any ideas for podcast guests or topics, email us at editor@physicianspractice.com.

The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) and Clinician & Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CG-CAHPS) surveys strike fear into the hearts of many healthcare professionals.

The surveys can have a negative impact on physician reimbursement through value-based purchasing and many don't think it's a fair assessment of the patient experience. William Maples, a onetime practicing oncologist and current chief medical officer of Professional Research Consultants Inc., a privately held healthcare market research firm, is one person that's critical of the HCAHPS and CG-CAHPS surveys.

Maples, who is also the founder of the Institute for Healthcare Excellence, spoke with Physicians Practice in a two-part interview for the Pearls podcast. In part one, Maples talked about what he doesn't love about HCAHPS and where it misses the mark.

"When you look at the true measurement of patient experience, teamwork is really critically important. That's both teamwork in the eyes of the patients and teamwork in the eyes of the employees. So that particular aspect is not formally measured in [HCAHPS and CG-CAHPS]. Does my healthcare provider care truly about me and my health? Again, [this is] not really assessed in HCAHPS, but a critically important factor in creating that excellent experience for the patient," he said.

To Maples, HCAHPS and CG-CAPHS surveys include some elements of the patient experience, but not all of them. He doesn't think the survey should be "abandoned and replaced," and does think it provides "some rich information." 

Later on in the podcast, Maples explained why the patient experience is so difficult for providers to accurately measure, whether it's through the HCAHPS and CG-CAPHS surveys or something else. Many traditional patient surveys, he said, do not account for a wide spectrum of patients that healthcare professionals care for in their practice.

"It's not uncommon with patient experience surveys that sometimes response rates can drop to 20 percent or less, particularly if you think about your experiences when you get a survey in the mail…often, it goes in the waste basket. The people responding are often either very dissatisfied or very satisfied. We're missing the bulk of people that we actually serve…we're missing their voices," he said. "This survey methodology is not capturing the voice of the spectrum of the patients we're seeing."

Stay tuned for part two of the podcast where Maples gives advice to practices on how they can accurately measure the patient experience and close the gaps in patient engagement.

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