Does Naming the Focal Plan in a CAHPS Survey of Health Care Quality Affect Response Rates and Beneficiary Evaluations?

Published in: Public Opinion Quarterly, v. 77, no. 2, Summer 2013, p. 455-473

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2013

by Jake Dembosky, Amelia Haviland, Marc N. Elliott, Paul Kallaur, Carol A. Edwards, Edward S. Sekscenski, Alan M. Zaslavsky, Julie A. Brown

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The recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act makes collecting information on patients' health care experiences a national priority. The Medicare Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Survey is the largest survey of Medicare beneficiaries about their care experiences. Each year, a nationally representative random sample of beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans receive a mail survey, followed by a telephone follow-up of nonrespondents. The mail survey lists the respondent's plan name at the beginning and repeats the plan name in several of the questions. However, some beneficiaries may not recognize their plan name, potentially affecting their level of engagement with the survey and, in turn, unit and item response rates. An alternative approach is to use a generic survey in which the plan name appears only once, on the back of the survey booklet. This manuscript reports the results of a 2010 experiment in which a random subsample of beneficiaries were mailed a generic survey. Differences in unit and item response rates, as well as evaluations of care experiences, between beneficiaries who received a generic survey and those who received a customized survey were compared. The use of a generic survey did not appear to affect either unit or item response rates, and did not appear to affect the ways in which beneficiaries evaluate various aspects of their care experiences. These results suggest that generic mail surveys may be preferable to customized surveys, especially since they entail lower printing and mailing costs.

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