How can patient and provider surveys improve health care?

CAHPS and SOPS: Improving health care through patient and provider surveys


Ensuring high-quality health care and protecting patient safety is a major and ongoing challenge facing our society. Each year the U.S. spends about $3.65 trillion on health care yet hundreds of thousands of hospital patients die as a result of medical errors.

As part of its effort to promote high-quality health care, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has 2 long-term survey programs that Westat supports

  • Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®), which asks patients about their experiences with health plans and the care they receive from doctors, nurses, and staff in medical offices and other health care facilities.
  • Surveys on Patient Safety Culture™ (SOPS®), which ask health care providers and staff in hospitals, medical offices, nursing homes, community pharmacies, and ambulatory surgery centers about the extent to which their organizational culture supports patient safety.


We support these surveys by

  • Developing and pilot testing new surveys and items. These include supplemental items that can be added to the CAHPS or SOPS instruments, including experience with Patient-Centered Medical Homes or Health Literacy for CAHPS, and items on health IT, value and efficiency, and workplace safety for SOPS.
  • Updating existing surveys to ensure that they remain current, relevant, and consistent with changes in the health care delivery system, existing standards of practice, and survey best practices.
  • Creating toolkits to support and provide guidance to survey users.
  • Hosting educational events about SOPS and CAHPS, such as webcasts and research meetings.
  • Maintaining databases of survey results to help users understand how their results compare to other health care organizations.
  • Analyzing and presenting CAHPS and SOPS survey data through reports, chartbooks, presentations, and publications.
  • Providing technical assistance to survey users.


Health care organizations and researchers can use the surveys to

  • Assess and improve patient experience, patient safety, and the overall quality of health care delivery
  • Raise awareness about quality and patient safety
  • Identify their strengths and areas for improvement
  • Evaluate initiatives and interventions aimed to improve health care quality and patient safety


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