Choosing the right ICH CAHPS vendor

Updated December 2019

A new year means a new In-Center Hemodialysis (ICH) CAHPS survey season. At RMS, we’re diving into 2020 by closing the books on the ICH CAHPS 2019 Fall Survey cycle and prepping new and existing clients for the 2020 Spring Survey cycle. With the close of the Fall 2019 Survey data collection, our Healthcare Analytics division is currently processing and cleaning final data obtained from our clients’ patients, gearing up for final data submission to CMS by the end of the month.

February is not only the last full month of winter, but also the last chance for organizations to authorize a new vendor for the 2020 Spring Survey. Dialysis facilities have until February 28, 2019 to select a new vendor if they choose. So what are some things dialysis facilities need to consider when selecting an ICH CAHPS vendor?

  1. Choose a CMS-approved vendor that makes sense for your facility’s reputation and your bottom line.

There are many factors that contribute to what defines a “high-quality dialysis facility.” According to an RMS ICH CAHPS survey, a whopping 89% of dialysis facilities believe a high patient satisfaction response is “very important,” and 62% believe a high patient satisfaction score is also “very important.” The reason these two attributes are regarded so highly is due to the fact that dialysis facilities are reimbursed according to a value-based model. The more positive responses a dialysis facility receives, the better the reimbursement from the government. Your response rates should be tactfully procured and treated as a high priority on your vendor’s end. Sure, cost is a factor when choosing a qualified vendor, but the biggest impact on your bottom line is whether your response rates will give you the greater ROI. We found that over a quarter (28%) of facilities have switched vendors prior to a new survey cycle beginning, and 41% have switched for better service, including the advantage of their vendor offering better reporting and better analytics. Rated as one of the top patient satisfaction measurement firms in the country by Modern Healthcare magazine, RMS has thorough experience in what works for dialysis facilities that are required to survey patients against the CMS guidelines.

  1. Modify your internal protocols.

At the 2017 National Renal Administrators Association (NRAA) Annual Conference, RMS President Mark Dengler and Senior Director of Corporate Strategy Sandy Baker shared the importance of ICH CAHPS scores to hundreds of members from across the country (watch the presentation here). The majority of presentation attendees inquired about how facilities could take matters into their own hands and work with their vendor to obtain higher response rates. When we surveyed dialysis facilities regarding their survey response rates, 41% shared their scores were below the national average. 22% said their response rates were the same as the national average, 15% were higher, and nearly a quarter (22%) were unsure of their response rates. So how can a facility align their response rates to reflect high quality of care? Number one, it’s crucial to know your current response rate. Knowing this information is vital to interpreting the data and examining how you can increase patient satisfaction and your financial reimbursements. From there, facilities should share the responses and survey results with staff. Problem areas should be communicated and clearly identified to remedy the scores that are hurting the facility’s status. Engage and educate your staff on the ICH CAHPS Survey by reviewing the survey questions and using the language, incorporating survey updates in staff meetings, role-playing possible patient inquiry scenarios, and sharing allowable messaging. Think of it as preparing for a final exam: knowing the survey inside and out is a surefire way to solidify a high score.

  1. Take advantage of vendors’ resources.

Your ICH CAHPS vendor is your partner. They not only have your survey results and response rates, but they know how to get your facility where you want it to be—at the top. Vendors should be engaging with you throughout the entire survey cycle, working with you and your staff to promote the survey. At RMS, we work with clients to increase awareness of the survey through collateral materials such as posters, flyers, TV monitor messages, and on-hold messages, newsletters and more. Survey processes should be communicated throughout the cycle so that you know what stage of the process you’re in. Following data collection, your vendor should generate and review the data with your staff to keep you informed. Maybe your vendor is more affordable, but the reporting leaves something to be desired. How useful is the survey data if it’s incomprehensible or worse, unemployed? Take a step back to see if your vendor is working with you to promote not only the ICH CAHPS Survey, but your facility as well.

The ICH CAHPS Survey is a means to engage patients in sharing their experience with the facility and provider. As part of the national move to a value-based, outcomes-driven healthcare delivery model, the survey’s focus is on quality improvement and creating incentives. With a standardized approach to provide transparency and comparability of facilities across the country, the ICH CAHPS Survey is a requirement to obtain the maximum Medicare reimbursement, and it’s no secret that a lot rests on the survey results. Working with an intelligent and supportive survey vendor whose main goal is to look after your facility’s overall health and rating is the secret to your organization’s ongoing success.

*CAHPS® Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems is a registered trademark of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

About RMS Healthcare.

RMS Healthcare, a division of Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) provides operational support, consulting and research services, tailoring their expertise to optimize your organization’s performance. They are a leading healthcare team with proven experience and success in patient surveying and practice transformation. Interested in obtaining more information about patient experience surveying or CAHPS vendor authorization? Contact Sandy Baker at or call us at 315.635.9802.