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2020 HCAHPS Updates: Coronavirus, Esurveys, and More

March 25, 2020

In response to the extreme and uncontrollable circumstances we are experiencing, CMS published a press release this weekend outlining exceptions and extensions for many CMS deadlines. CMS recognizes that data collected during this time may not reflect the “true level of performance” of hospitals. PRC has asked a few clarifying questions regarding this notice, and we will provide further information once those questions are answered. In the meantime, here are the long-term updates CMS provided during the HCAHPS vendor training earlier this spring. 

As required by CMS for all approved vendors, PRC attended the 15th HCAHPS vendor update training on February 26, 2020. This training provides vendors with instructions regarding changes to the HCAHPS Quality Assurance Guidelines and shares news and information regarding additional changes being considered and research being conducted.  

CMS is undertaking a thorough, soup-to-nuts review of the HCAHPS survey content and methodology options; information and speculation about this work began circulating in Fall 2019. Work is underway to gather feedback from patients regarding the aspects of care that might be most meaningful to include in the survey, and from there, CMS will solicit input from several stakeholder groups on all facets of the study design. During this training, CMS representatives were clear to note that no decisions on if or how the HCAHPS survey should be changed have been made. 

CMS representatives also announced that they intend to conduct a mode experiment in 2021 that tests three mixed-mode methodologies that all include an email invitation to complete a survey on the web:  

  • Email and mail 
  • Email and phone 
  • Email and mixed-mode (mail + phone) 

Due to legal restrictions regarding sending texts, they will not be sending any invitations through text messaging for this mode experiment. If any of the above methods are approved for HCAHPS survey administration, they will not be implemented until 2022 at the very earliest. 

In anticipation of the mode experiment and future Esurvey data collection, CMS is encouraging hospitals now to provide their survey vendors with patient email addresses, if they are not doing so already. They also are moving towards requiring that the survey be offered in Spanish, they and recommend that hospitals begin providing the patient’s preferred language, if they don’t do so already. The training also highlighted other best practices to improve your HCAHPS data collection, including: 

  • Working with hospital staff to collect valid information during patient registration 
  • Informing all patients about the HCAHPS survey 

In addition, they discussed best practices that PRC is already using in our HCAHPS survey administration, such as thorough interviewer training and maintaining a professional call center environment. As a whole, their best practices support the idea that higher response rates and your respondents accurately representing your patient population are important when doing survey research. PRC agrees wholeheartedly and is happy to evaluate how well your survey accomplishes those goals. 

Further, starting in July 2020, hospitals will need to provide Total Inpatient Discharges for the entire hospital. This number should include all inpatient hospital discharges including those who are not eligible for HCAHPS, such as patients under 18, patients without an overnight stay, patients expired at time of discharge.                      

And, last but not least, changes are coming to QualityNet. There will be a new login process, so you’ll need to update your account before accessing HCAHPS submission reports or receiving Hospital Compare Preview Reports. More information can be found on the QualityNet website.  

The next couple of years should see some significant activity as CMS works to redesign the HCAHPS program and bring it more in line with healthcare of today and tomorrow, and PRC is committed to keeping you informed of what you need to know. If you would like further information on any of these 2020 updates, please reach to PRC’s CAHPS Team.