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PCF PECS 101: What this patient experience survey means for Primary Care First-Model participants

The Primary Care First (PCF) Patient Experience of Care Survey (PECS) was developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to measure care quality for PCF-model participants. The five-year PCF model aims to improve health outcomes and reduce expenditures by increasing access to advanced primary care services for patients, especially those with complex chronic needs or serious illness. Primary care providers participating in the model are incentivized to deliver patient-centered care that reduces acute hospital utilization. The model was designed for practices that are prepared to take on more accountability—and, in return, these practices gain the possibility of greater reward. 

Since PCF PECS was implemented just recently, it’s crucial to understand the basics and know how this survey aligns with your continuous patient experience listening strategy. 

What is PCF PECS?

This survey was designed to collect feedback on the quality of care patients receive in primary care settings. The survey is unique to the PCF model and based on the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Clinician & Group Survey, with added PCF-specific questions. Press Ganey has been a certified PCF PECS vendor since May 2021.

Is participation in PCF Patient Experience of Care Survey mandatory?  

CMS requires all practices participating in the PCF model to conduct PCF PECS each fall during the five-year model. Patient responses to this survey determine organizations’ PCF PECS Summary Scores and resulting benchmarks, which significantly impact a practice’s payment adjustment within the model.  

What types of questions does the Survey ask?  

PCF PECS asks questions about healthcare experiences with the practice, with the care provider, and about patients’ overall health—for example, how easy or difficult it is for patients to schedule appointments and get after-hour care, if the healthcare team listens and explains things clearly and thoroughly, and if the practice contributes to the overall well-being of the patient (post-acute event follow-up, continuous behavioral health dialogue, etc.). The survey also includes standard demographic questions.  

Who is surveyed with the Primary Care First PECS?  

Participating sites are required to submit patient rosters to CMS in the summer. Then, CMS selects the sample of the roster to be surveyed. Authorized vendors obtain the roster via a secure web portal. Participating sites must authorize a survey vendor by CMS’s deadline for the sample file to be released on time for surveying. 

How do I administer the PCF Survey?  

PCF PECS are administered by certified survey vendors over a 12-week period. Patients sampled for the survey will first receive a paper survey, and non-respondents will receive another paper survey followed by phone call attempts. The survey takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.  

Why is PCF PECS important for the Primary Care First Model?  

Feedback from surveys helps organizations better understand and act on their patients’ needs. High experience scores are associated with better quality care—a crucial aspect of CMS’s goals with the PCF model. CMS provides participating practices with custom scores in late spring, enabling PCF-model sites to assess areas for improvement. To reward quality of care delivery, the survey results determine a significant portion of the performance-based adjustment payment (PBA) under the PCF model. 

How does PCF Patient Experience of Care surveying benefit patients? 

PCF PECS surveys offer patients the opportunity to provide experience feedback on their primary care practice, healthcare team, and primary healthcare provider. These insights can help organizations better understand patient needs and address areas for improvement, and because participating in PCF incentivizes practices to provide high-quality care, the model can improve wellness and reduce major health events for patients with complex medical needs or serious illnesses. 

How does PCF Patient Experience of Care surveying help primary care providers improve healthcare delivery? 

By obtaining patient feedback on their experiences with many aspects of healthcare delivery, PCF surveys provide primary care practices with valuable insights when combined with a continuous listening strategy. Leaders and teams can use these data to determine where environmental and care gaps exist and develop targeted improvement efforts.  

How can my organization get started with PCF PECS?  

If your practice participates in the PCF model, you’ll want to consult a CMS-approved survey vendor, such as Press Ganey, to administer your PCF PECS and help ensure leaders are up to date on all important regulatory announcements. In addition to the annual PCF PECS, Press Ganey offers continuous patient experience insights through flexible outreach options, consulting solutions, industry-leading expertise, and compliance management to help participating sites meet requirements and work toward improving PCF PECS scores. 


The PCF PECS is now a standard measurement tool for all sites participating in the PCF model. To ensure your organization meets this survey requirement, it’s critical to understand the regulatory ins and outs of the model and survey program, how to incorporate the survey into your organization’s ongoing experience improvement strategy, and what vendor to partner with when implementing a PCF PECS survey.


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