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ICH CAHPS 101: What Dialysis Centers Should Know About This Patient Experience Survey

Formally endorsed by the National Quality Forum (NQF) in 2007, the In-Center Hemodialysis (ICH) Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey was developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to measure patient experience perspectives of dialysis care. ICH CAHPS is a national, standardized measurement tool and the first of its kind to solely focus on patients experiencing a specific chronic disease.

As ICH CAHPS covers a narrow patient segment, it’s critical to understand the fundamentals as well as the implications of this survey for your dialysis facility.

What Is ICH CAHPS?

This survey was designed to collect feedback on the quality of care experienced by patients with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) who receive life-sustaining in-center hemodialysis. It is the first standardized and publicly reported patient experience survey to gauge patients’ perspectives on dialysis care.

Is Dialysis Facility Participation in ICH CAHPS Mandatory?

As part of the ESRD Quality Incentive Program (QIP), CMS requires all Medicare-certified in-center hemodialysis facilities that treat 30 or more survey-eligible ESRD patients a year to conduct ICH CAHPS twice a year, in the spring and fall. CMS publishes the survey results on Medicare’s Care Compare website.

What Types of Questions Does the Survey Ask?

The ICH CAHPS survey asks patients about their experiences with the quality of nephrologists’ communication and care, dialysis center staff communication and care, and information provided to them by the dialysis center. The survey also includes three single-item questions that ask the patient to rate the nephrologist, dialysis center staff, and dialysis center. Demographic questions are also included.

Which Patients Are Eligible for In-Center Hemodialysis CAHPS?

Adult patients who received in-center hemodialysis care from their current facility for at least three months are eligible for the ICH CAHPS survey. Patients are excluded from surveying if they are under the age of 18, currently receiving hospice care, or currently residing in an institution, such as a nursing home, jail/prison, or another type of long-term care center. All facilities must contract a CMS-certified vendor to administer the survey. Press Ganey is CMS-approved and ready to administer ICH CAHPS surveys on your organization’s behalf.

How Do I Administer the Survey?

Medicare-certified dialysis facilities required to participate in ICH CAHPS must contract a CMS-approved survey vendor to administer the survey twice per year, in the spring and fall. The spring survey is generally conducted between April and July (in 2022, for example, it starts in May), while the fall survey is usually conducted between October and January. The CMS ICH CAHPS team selects the sample of eligible patients from dialysis centers and sends the file to the chosen vendor for survey administration. The survey can be administered by mail, phone, and mail followed by phone.

Why Is ICH CAHPS Important for Dialysis Centers?

Feedback from these patient surveys helps dialysis centers improve their quality of care. As a key component of the ESRD Quality Incentive Program, performance on the ICH CAHPS survey impacts Medicare reimbursements. Additionally, because results are publicly reported, facilities that perform well will gain positive exposure.

How Does ICH CAHPS Benefit Patients?

These surveys give patients the opportunity to provide feedback on their dialysis experience. The results are publicly reported online, which helps people make informed decisions about where to seek care. In turn, organizations can better assess what's working well and where they can improve, benefiting future patients.

How Does ICH CAHPS Help Care Providers Improve Healthcare Delivery?

Collecting patient feedback provides dialysis centers with valuable information about what their patients experience firsthand. Organizations can then leverage this data to better understand their processes and performance, review publicly reported ratings to see how they stack up against others, and develop improvement plans.

How Can My Organization Get Started with ICH CAHPS?

If your in-center hemodialysis facility serves at least 30 patients per year, you’ll want to consult a CMS-approved survey vendor—like Press Ganey—to administer your ICH CAHPS survey and help keep you up to date on important regulatory announcements. In addition to administering ICH CAHPS surveys, Press Ganey offers patient experience (PX) insights through flexible cutting-edge technologies, consulting solutions, industry-leading expertise, and compliance management to help facilities like yours meet requirements and work toward improving ICH CAHPS scores.

The ICH CAHPS survey is a national, standardized measurement tool. To ensure your dialysis center meets this survey requirement and maximizes performance, it’s vital to understand the survey’s details and choose an experienced vendor to help your organization administer the survey and transform the experience of your patients.

Read more about our 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.

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