In today’s world, it seems like everyone surveys:  restaurants, gas stations, retailers, even the car dealership.  You can look at just about any receipt and see an option to take a customer satisfaction survey.  It seems kind of silly to me actually, because if we all simply practiced the “Golden Rule” as a service provider or  customer, there would likely be no need for surveys to tell us how we can improve.  The reality though is that just about any company surveys its customers looking for feedback to help them improve.  Hospitals are no different trying to measure patient satisfaction.


Enter HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems).  HCAHPS is the title of the hospital patient satisfaction survey that is randomly sent to people recently discharged from the hospital.

HCAHPS was developed over 10  years ago by CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).  The goal was to provide a standard way to collect feedback from patients about hospitals.  This patient satisfaction feedback is then publicly reported so that consumers can compare how hospitals rate against each other.  Really it’s not unlike star ratings on Amazon.  There are websites that consumers can use to see this information which you can access here.

The survey asks 18 questions which belong to 10 different categories related to the hospital stay:

  • Communication with doctors
  • Communication with nurses
  • Responsiveness of hospital staff
  • Cleanliness of the hospital environment
  • Quietness of the hospital environment
  • Pain management
  • Communication about medicines
  • Discharge information
  • Overall rating of hospital
  • Recommendation of hospital

The other 9 questions focus on demographic information such as race and educational level and the patient’s perception of their own health.

Who Receives the HCAHPS Survey?

Not everyone who has been in the hospital will receive a  patient satisfaction survey.  Patients are randomly chosen.  Hospitals use a third-party vendor that is not affiliated with their organization to administer the survey.  In order to be a candidate to receive the survey you have to meet the following criteria:

  • 18 years or older at the time of admission
  • At least one overnight stay in the hospital as an inpatient
  • Non-psychiatric diagnosis at discharge
  • Alive at the time of discharge


Why Is Completing the HCAHPS Survey So Important?

The healthcare system has really shifted to a consumer based and consumer focused business over the last several decades.  It used to be that patients utilized hospitals because of convenience or  because their doctor practiced there.  That world has significantly changed.  Most of the time, Patients have a choice as to where to receive medical care.  Patients seek out hospitals with a great reputation for safety, quality and service.  It is important to complete the HCAHPS survey because the same questions are asked of patients from every hospital.  This makes the ratings consistent and fair.

Hospitals are able to view individual surveys and comments.  They can use this information to improve their patients’ experiences.  Research has shown a correlation between health outcomes and a patient’s experience.

It is also important to complete the HCAHPS survey because a portion of a hospital’s Medicare reimbursement is based on how well the organization is rated by its patients.  Reimbursement is vitally important to sustain a hospital’s operations.  In other words, it takes money for a hospital to stay current with it’s clinical services.  If a hospital provides you with a great experience they will continue to receive reimbursement from Medicare  thus moving this cycle in a positive direction.  Hospitals that do not do well with HCAHPS could possibly be financially penalized.  Therefore, the HCAHPS survey provides a great deal of incentive for hospitals to learn how to connect with their patients on a personal level.

In Summary

The HCAHPS survey that patient’s receive is not created by the hospital.  The survey may display the hospital name, however the 27 core questions are determined by CMS.  A hospital may choose to ask additional questions however, but these are not publicly reported.

It is important to provide your hospital with feedback about your stay.  What happens in a hospital is unique compared to an experience in a restaurant,  your favorite store or at a gas station.  People usually don’t want to go to the hospital because in most cases this means there is something wrong with their health (Unless you’re having a baby of course!! 😊)  The challenge of helping patients have a great experience during some of their most difficult life events is ongoing.  We cannot learn unless we continue to understand how to improve.


Have you had a hospital experience?  We would love if you could share what your expectations were as a patient and whether they were met or not met.  Please comment below.


Thank You