Since July 2007, hospitals have been required by CMS to collect, submit, and publicly report patient satisfaction surveys through the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) in order to receive full Medicare payment. Unfortunately, to the detriment of more timely and accurate data, HCAHPS surveys can be administered by mail only, telephone only, mail with telephone follow-up, and/or Active Interactive Voice Response (IVR). Not only do these traditional survey methods create excessive survey administration burden, they capture old data as patients can be surveyed between 48 hours and six weeks after discharge. Additionally, the number of survey responses is steadily declining. A health care organization that sees 250,000 patients per year may expect fewer than 2,000 completed surveys. Because of the restraints of the traditional survey methods, hospitals do not have enough data in a timely manner to make meaningful patient experience decisions.
In our experience, we have seen widespread adoption and usage of digital tools by all patient populations – including the vulnerable populations, such as the housing insecure and elderly populations. CMS itself has rightfully pointed out the persistent myth of low technology use among seniors in a recent CMS blog post: “Sadly, this type of ageism isn’t anything new. But it is inaccurate. CMS research has demonstrated repeatedly that many people with Medicare own smartphones and tablets, download apps, and use them all the time.” There has been a drastic increase in internet and smart phone use amongst seniors – and it will only continue to grow. We urge CMS to modernize the CAHPS survey program to include digital means of survey administration.