Creating a Culture of CAHPS

by Alvonice Spencer


For most industries, effectively measuring consumer perception is a vital, ongoing process designed to understand and improve the customer experience. The restaurant and hospitality industry regularly monitors online ratings and reviews. Service-oriented businesses frequently survey customers following interactions to gain valuable insight and generate goodwill. In today’s digital and social media landscape, customers have more options than ever to voice their experiences and perceptions of quality. It’s not enough, however, to simply collect customer feedback. To be impactful, insights should be timely and capable of generating actionable change when needed. For health plans, translating customer experience data into meaningful outcomes has proven to be a much desired but oftentimes obscure goal.

For nearly 20 years, health plans have utilized the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Health Plan Survey to gauge patient experience. This standardized survey given annually to a representative sample of a plan’s membership assesses patient experience with health plans and their services. It provides a valuable glimpse into patient perception related to navigating a health plan and receiving care. For Commercial, Medicare and Medicaid health plans alike, CAHPS surveys is an undeniable necessity in understanding the collective needs of often diverse membership populations; but for many health plans, this yearly activity isn’t enough to generate the actionable change needed to improve the customer experience.

Some health plans have responded to the challenge of improving customer experience and perception by engaging enrollees more frequently than the required yearly survey – effectively making the aims of CAHPS surveying part of the health plan’s culture. The yearly CAHPS Health Plan Survey provides a solid foundation for understanding high-level trends among populations; however, plans may recognize added benefits by employing a CAHPS augment survey strategy – one that aims to engage members beyond the official survey period and connects results to expanded demographic and market data. An augment or off-cycle survey strategy gives plans added outreach capacity and flexibility (for instance, surveying a population in a newly added service area to detect potential network access issues). Augmented member outreach can be tied to claims data for additional market analysis. The huge advantage lies in the data. Having access to granular, CAHPS-based survey data places health plans in better position to more fully understand the perceptions of those they serve. Improvement and positive change can then be implemented to meet those needs. Creating a “culture of CAHPS” throughout the year helps make official surveying feel less intimidating for enrollees, and more importantly, places emphasis on improving the care experience of customers.

Alvonice Spencer
Director of Quality


Alvonice Spencer is Director of Quality at Pursuant Health. He has an extensive background working for health systems and most recently was Stars Quality Director at Cigna-HealthSpring. Mr. Spencer earned a Master of Science in Health Administration from The University of Alabama at Birmingham.


Pursuant Health values its role in helping health plans achieve meaningful quality intervention and member engagement. For more information on Pursuant Health and how we can assist your health plan, please contact