The following blog post was written by Maggy Stewart, Graphic Designer & Marketing Coordinator at RMS.

Outpatient Surgery Magazine

Do you know how to score high in health rating systems? Equally (if not more) important, do you know what to do when you don’t score high in health rating systems? In the December 2017 issue of Outpatient Surgery Magazine, RMS President Mark Dengler and Senior Directors Sandy Baker and Susan Maxsween were interviewed to share insight on how ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) and hospitals are affected by their patients’ experiences.

The Ratings Game,” an article which details the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) patient experience surveys, also known as CAHPS® (Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems)  surveys, also dissects the main concerns facilities face when dealing with the survey results and scores that are publicly available for anyone looking to compare and choose facilities and staff for their own medical procedures.

“There are several types of surveys and
evaluators. One of the biggest is a
series of patient surveys called CAHPS —
HCAHPS for hospitals and OAS CAHPS for
ASCs and Hospital Outpatient Departments
(HOPDs) — that CMS oversees. In both ASCs
and hospitals, the CAHPS survey process
works similarly: Facilities choose a
CMS-approved vendor and then send their
list of patients for the month to that
vendor each month. The vendor randomly
chooses patients that they’ll contact
with CMS-approved questions about their
stay at the facility. Those can include
anything from the quality of communication
with their doctors and nurses to the
cleanliness of the hospital or center, says
Sandy Baker, Vice President of [Corporate
Strategy] for RMS, a CMS-approved vendor.
Hospitals have the option to administer
the surveys themselves, but ASCs
do not. CMS is looking for hospitals and
surgery centers to have completed surveys
from 300 patients a year — or 25 a month.”

When it comes to surgery centers and hospitals exploring the ways they could be affected by the public CMS scores, there are steps organizations can take to keep their scores high or to improve their scores when faced with less than desirable results.


“The best way to prepare for a CAHPS survey
is to familiarize yourself with the
questions, says Ms. Baker. In an outpatient
survey, for example, there are 37 questions
that patients will consider when evaluating
your facility, including their preparation
for the procedure, the check-in and pre-op
processes, and how they’re prepared for
at-home recovery.

The survey can be found on the outpatient
CAHPS website (
or on the hospital CAHPS website
“Know what the language is, and use that
language,” says Ms. Baker. For example, if
nurses use ‘pills’ when describing post-op
pain management drugs to patients, but
surveyors ask patients if their nurse
explained ‘pain medication’ to them,
patients could say, ‘No,’ because the nurses
didn’t specifically use the words ‘pain


Although outpatient surgery centers are not yet required to conduct the CMS OAS CAHPS survey, it is crucial to begin preparations now as the program is likely to be mandated by CMS within the next year. The good news is facilities can currently conduct voluntary surveying via CMS-approved vendors, giving them the ability to adjust and remedy negative feedback before the survey is government-mandated and make necessary improvements where needed.

“Many facilities do well with patient care
management, attentiveness to patient comfort,
and preparing patients for what to expect
during recovery, say Mark Dengler, President
of RMS and Susan Maxsween, Senior Director of
Healthcare Operations at RMS. However, they
often fall short when thoroughly explaining to
patients what they should do in cases of
bleeding, nausea or infection, and in fully
explaining the side effects of anesthesia,
say Mr. Dengler and Ms. Maxsween.”

So what can facilities do to optimize their scores and better prepare for the soon-to-be implemented OAS CAHPS survey?

“[Mr. Dengler and Ms. Maxsween] recommend correcting
[shortfalls] by focusing on better communication with
patients about what they can expect post-op and following
up with patients in the 24 to 48 hours following their
procedures by providing more printed and online materials.”



The best advice for now? Be proactive. Don’t wait around for the survey to score itself — make your facility successful now. RMS Healthcare works with facilities to improve survey scores by providing materials to keep the survey initiative present in patients’ minds. Promote engagement and preparedness with your staff so that when the survey mandate rolls around, you’ll be scoring high while others wish they were.

To read the full Outpatient Surgery Magazine article, click here.

About RMS Healthcare.

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

Merriman, A. and Gregory, B. “The Ratings Game,” Outpatient Surgery Magazine. December 2017,–12-17&pg=2 (March 1, 2018).