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Home Health CAHPS 101: What this patient survey means for home care organizations

The Home Health (HH) Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey was developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to measure the experience of patients receiving care from Medicare-certified home health agencies (HHAs). First used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2009 within the Home Health Quality Reporting Program, the 34-item survey measures patient perceptions on numerous aspects of home healthcare—the results of which are then published to Medicare’s Care Compare website to help consumers make informed decisions about choosing a home healthcare provider. 

With home healthcare surging the past few years and slated to continue growing, it’s essential to understand the basics of this home health survey and how it’s administered.

What is HHCAHPS?

The HHCAHPS survey collects feedback from patients on the quality of care received from HHAs. This survey can be completed by the patient or by patient proxy. 

Is participation in HHCAHPS mandatory?

CMS requires all home health providers that receive Medicare payments and treat 60 or more patients annually to survey a defined sample of their eligible beneficiaries with HHCAHPS. Required organizations must contract a CMS-approved HHCAHPS survey vendor, like Press Ganey, to administer the survey each month and submit HHCAHPS data to the HHCAHPS Data Center each quarter. HHAs serving 59 or fewer survey-eligible patients annually may apply for an exemption from this survey requirement. 

What types of questions does this patient experience survey ask?

The HHCAHPS survey asks about important healthcare topics, including communication about and access to care, pain and prescription medicines, the quality of care received from the HHA and overall experience —such as an overall rating of care and the patient’s willingness to recommend the HHA to family and friends. The survey also asks standard demographic questions.  

Who is surveyed with the HHCAHPS Survey?

Generally, adult patients who receive one skilled care visit from Medicare-certified HHAs within the sample month are eligible to take the HHCAHPS survey. Some patients will be ineligible for the survey, including those who received home healthcare for routine maternity care or currently receive hospice care. HHCAHPS survey vendors select a sample of patients to survey and initiate the survey for each month within 21 days after the close of the previous month, submitting HHCAHPS data to the HHCAHPS Data Center on a quarterly basis. 

How do I administer the Home Health CAHPS Survey?

HHCAHPS surveys are administered by Medicare-certified survey vendors like Press Ganey on a monthly basis. Patients are surveyed by mail or telephone. The survey takes approximately 12 minutes to complete.  

Why is the Survey important for Medicare-certified home health organizations?  

Survey feedback helps organizations better understand and improve the patient experience (PX) in a home healthcare setting. CMS uses the HHCAHPS survey within the Home Health Quality Reporting Program, allowing CMS to better measure the quality of care delivered by HHAs. Beginning in CY 2023, CMS will also use the HHCAHPS survey within the Expanded Home Health Value-Based Purchasing Model, tying performance on the survey to Medicare payments. CMS publicly reports the HHCAHPS data on Medicare’s Care Compare website, incentivizing HHAs to improve care delivery.  

How does home healthcare feedback benefit patients?

HHCAHPS surveys give patients the opportunity to evaluate their experience of care provided by HHAs. This data is then publicly reported to help consumers choose the best HHA for their care needs. In turn, these insights help organizations address patient needs and improve care delivery—bettering health outcomes and reducing harm to patients in home healthcare settings.

How do HHCAHPS Surveys improve healthcare delivery?

Collecting patient experience feedback on several aspects of home healthcare delivery provides HHAs with valuable insights when combined with a continuous listening strategy. Organizations can use this data to identify care gaps and implement targeted improvement strategies. Patients also benefit from HHCAHPS, as they experience better health outcomes, and HHAs elevate care delivery while reducing costs. Press Ganey offers benchmarks, consulting services, and other tools to ensure successful implementation of HHCAHPS surveys. 

How can my organization get started with HHCAHPS?

If your HHA is required to implement HHCAHPS, you’ll want to consult a CMS–approved survey vendor, such as Press Ganey, to administer the survey and help leaders stay up to date on all associated requirements. Press Ganey also offers continuous patient experience insights through flexible survey administration options, consulting solutions, industry-leading expertise, and compliance management to help organizations adhere to survey requirements. 

The HHCAHPS survey is a standard tool for measuring patient experiences with HHAs. To ensure your organization meets HHCAHPS requirements, it’s critical to understand the basics of the survey program, how to implement the survey, and which vendor to partner with to administer the HHCAHPS survey. 

Read more about CAHPS surveys and regulatory offerings or speak with an expert to learn how your organization can best measure patient experience and comply with CMS requirements.

About the author

Hilary Dempsey is a Senior Policy Analyst with Press Ganey Associates. She is responsible for providing guidance, training, and expertise in the regulatory and policy arena. In her role, she analyzes, interprets, and presents regulatory and policy updates and information, monitors non-regulatory third-party activities and industry changes, and advocates for Press Ganey clients in our communications to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and third-party entities. In addition, Hilary is also the Program Manager for Press Ganey’s Equity Partnership. In this role, she collaborates with stakeholders, coordinates cross-functional teams across Press Ganey, and speaks with clients about the importance of equity. Before her current position, Hilary worked for Press Ganey as a Patient Experience Advisory, where she worked with hospitals and other facilities on specific strategies to improve the patient experience in those organizations. Prior to working for Press Ganey, she worked with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Colorado-Wyoming Chapter, where she represented and advocated for persons with MS at the state level. Hilary also worked for a United States Congressman, both in his district office and, later, in the Washington D.C. office on federal legislative matters. Hilary received her Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.

Profile Photo of Hilary Dempsey, MPA