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AHCPR Announces Faculty of a New Initiative to Assist Consumers in Selecting High-Quality Health Plans

Press Release Date: February 21, 1996

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research today announced the members of three consortia who will implement a major new initiative to assist consumers in selecting high-quality health care plans and services. The project, entitled Consumer Assessments of Health Plans Study (CAHPS®), consists of cooperative agreements totaling $10 million over five years with three consortia headed by Research Triangle Institute, the RAND Corporation and Harvard University.

AHCPR Administrator Clifton R. Gaus, Sc.D., said "Surveys by objective, non-government polling firms have shown that most Americans would like to have more information to help them choose hospitals, doctors and health care plans. We have brought together the nation's top experts in patient satisfaction and survey research to develop and test best methods for measuring consumers' satisfaction with their health plans and methods for communicating the results to consumers."

The surveys will be tested at several demonstration sites throughout the country, and will focus on a variety of health plans and service delivery settings, including HMOs, fee-for-service plans and public health clinics offering services to low-income individuals. CAHPS® surveys, and reports for consumers based on survey information, will be tested at each of these sites. In the final phase of the project, CAHPS® researchers will determine if the survey-based reports for consumers actually improve their ability to select appropriate health plans and services.

Dr. Gaus said that CAHPS® differs from other efforts at consumer assessment of health plans in some critical ways. "Most of the existing survey instruments are limited to assessment of consumer satisfaction with plans," he said. "Surveys developed under CAHPS® will ask consumers about additional areas of importance to them, including their access to care, their use of plan services—or reasons for not using services—and their rating of the quality of care they received and the outcomes of that care."

According to Robert M. Krughoff, president of the Center for the Study of Services/Consumers Checkbook Magazine, "Consumers who are trying to choose health plans that best meet their needs want to know—and need to know—about current plans members' experience with the plans. We expect the CAHPS® effort will produce a high-quality, broadly accepted set of questionnaires and ways of reporting results—enabling consumers to compare plans on a uniform footing nationwide."

Several fundamental questions provide the basis for each survey item to be developed under CAHPS®, including: "How will this information help consumers spend their health care dollars more effectively?" and "How will this empower consumers to choose high-quality plans at a cost and coverage level appropriate for their budgets and families?"

The project also will help managed care organizations with their efforts to provide high-quality care. "We know that virtually all Health Maintenance Organizations depend on patient satisfaction surveys for continuous quality improvement," said Karen Ignani, president of the Group Health Association of America/AMCRA. "The AHCPR research investment in systems to measure patient satisfaction will improve health care quality and services."

A related contract awarded by AHCPR to Westat, Inc., will assure that the survey instruments and communication devices developed under CAHPS® get into the hands of consumers, employers, plans, unions and other interested parties as quickly as possible. Under terms of the Survey User Network (SUN) contract, Westat will also provide technical assistance for users of the survey in order to facilitate their use. Funding for the first year of support is $497,000.

Questions regarding the CAHPS® and SUN projects should be directed to Christine Crofton, Ph.D., at (301) 427-1323, or Charles Darby, M.A., at (301) 427-1324.

A list of consortium members is below.

Research Triangle Institute (RTI) Consortium

Lisa Adatto

Lauren Burnbauer, Ph.D.
Steve Garfinkel, Ph.D.
Deborah Gibbs, M.S.P.H.
Rick Lennox
Research Triangle Institute

Barbara H. Forsyth, Ph.D.
Department of Survey Methods Research
Research Triangle Institute

Judith Hibbard, Dr.P.H.
Department of Planning, Public Policy, and Management
University of Oregon

Elizabeth W. Hoy, M.H.A.
Institute for Health Policy Solutions

Jim Lubalin, Ph.D.
Health Services and Policy Research Program
Research Triangle Institute

Judy T. Lynch
Survey Operations
Research Triangle Institute

Jeanne McGee, Ph.D.
McGee & Evers Consulting, Inc.

Barbara Sasso
Shoshanna Sofaer, Dr.P.H.
Division of Research Programs
Department of Health Care Sciences
George Washington University Medical Center

Harvard Consortium

Cary Sennett
National Committee for Quality Assurance

Paul D. Cleary, Ph.D.
Arnold M. Epstein, M.D., M.A.
Ed Guadagnoli, Ph.D.
Department of Health Care Policy
Harvard Medical School

Susan Edgman-Levitan
Lee Hargraves
David Veroff
The Picker Institute

Floyd Jackson Fowler, Jr., Ph.D.
Center for Survey Research
University of Massachusetts

Bob Gris
Center on Disability and Health

Charles Homer
Children's Hospital

Sherrie Kaplan
New England Medical Center

Susan Kleimann, Ph.D.
Information Design Center
American Institutes for Research

Donald Rubin
Alan Zaslavsky
Department of Statistics
Harvard Medical School

Rachel Spilka, Ph.D.
Information Design Center
American Institutes for Research

RAND Consortium

Sandra H. Berry, M.A.
Julie Brown
Jim Gillogly
Caren Kamberg
Matt Lewis
Grant Marshall
Beth McGlynn
Sally Morton
Pamela F. Short, Ph.D.
Mark Spranca

Pauline Daniels, M.P.H.
Member Services Department
United Health Plan

Ron Hays, Ph.D.
David Kanouse, Ph.D.
Raynard S. Kington, M.D., M.B.A., Ph.D.
Department of Social Policy

J. Allison Mayer-Oakes, M.D., M.S.P.H.
Research and Policy Division

For additional information, contact AHCPR Public Affairs: Karen Migdail, Karen Migdail, (301) 427-1855.

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