What are the requirements for becoming a CMS-approved CAHPS for ACOs Survey vendor?

To be considered for approval as a CAHPS for ACOs Survey vendor, organizations must meet all of the minimum business requirements at the time of application and submit a completed application. The current requirements can be found on the Minimum Business Requirements page.

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When may survey vendors submit applications for consideration to be a CMS-approved CAHPS for ACOs Survey vendor?

Survey vendor participation occurs once a year. For 2018, the vendor application period for CAHPS for ACOs Survey closed on March 20, 2018.

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My organization has previous experience with web-based survey administration followed by phone follow-up to non-respondents. Does that allow us to meet the mixed-mode experience required to be a CAHPS for ACOs Survey vendor?

No. The mixed-mode experience specified for CAHPS for ACOs Survey administration requires experience with mail survey administration followed by survey administration via Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) with non-respondents. Web-based survey administration experience, combined either with phone (or mail) survey administration, would not meet the mixed-mode requirement.

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What is involved in the survey vendor application process?

When the vendor application period is open, survey vendors need to complete the survey vendor application. Include, in detail, all subcontractor relationships. Be sure to fully document how your organization fulfills the survey vendor minimum business requirements, and submit your application to the CAHPS for ACOs Survey project team during the application submission period. 

If your organization’s application is approved, you are conditionally approved as a CAHPS for ACOs Survey vendor. To pursue final approval, key staff – from your organization and your subcontractors – must participate in  trainings and pass a quiz incorporated into the training sessions. Only conditionally approved survey vendors and their subcontractors may participate in training. Details regarding the 2018 CAHPS for ACOs Survey Vendor Trainings will be posted on the Survey Vendor Training page in the near future.

Your organization must also submit a Quality Assurance Plan. Final approval as a CAHPS for ACOs Survey vendor is contingent upon submission of a Quality Assurance Plan and successful participation in training sessions (including a passing quiz score). Approved vendors must also participate in additional training sessions.

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Survey Administration

Are there any restrictions on fielding other surveys at the same time as CAHPS for ACOs Survey?

CMS strongly encourages ACOs and survey vendors NOT to ask Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) beneficiaries any CAHPS for ACOs Survey questions four weeks prior, during, and four weeks after the CAHPS for ACOs Survey administration period. This recommendation does not apply to other CMS surveys. ACOs should take respondent burden and response rates into account when considering the timing of any additional data collection efforts.

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How will survey vendors be paid?

ACOs are responsible for the cost of CAHPS for ACOs Survey data collection and will contract directly with CMS-approved CAHPS for ACOs Survey vendors.

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What translations are available for the CAHPS for ACOs Survey?

CMS has translated the CAHPS for ACOs Survey into Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. ACOs have the option of administering the survey in one or more of the available languages.

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Are supplemental questions allowed for CAHPS for ACOs Survey administration?

CMS does not allow ACOs to add supplemental questions to the CAHPS for ACOs Survey.

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Who will draw the sample?

CMS will draw the sample.

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What languages are required for CAHPS for ACOs Survey administration?

The CAHPS for ACOs Survey must be administered in English. ACOs in Puerto Rico must administer the survey in Spanish and offer English if requested. Additional translations are available for ACOs to use on an optional basis.

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When will the 2018 CAHPS for ACOs Survey occur?

The 2018 CAHPS for ACOs Survey will be conducted from October 2018 to January 2019.

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What is the data collection protocol for the CAHPS for ACOs Survey?

The CAHPS for ACOs Survey uses a mixed-mode data collection protocol in which mail is the primary mode and Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) is the secondary or non-response mode. The mail component of the data collection protocol includes mailing of a pre-notification letter, initial survey and cover letter, and a second survey and cover letter to sampled beneficiaries who did not respond to the first mailed survey. The telephone component of the data collection protocol consists of outbound CATI to any sampled beneficiary who did not respond via mail survey. Vendors may use a CATI system of their choosing, and the protocol sets a limit of six phone attempts.

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Are survey vendors allowed to conduct analysis of the CAHPS for ACOs Survey data?

Survey vendors may provide ACOs with preliminary survey results. Any data survey vendors wish to append to survey results or sample data for use in analysis must have advance written approval from CMS. All reports survey vendors provide to ACOs (whether paper or electronic format) must include a statement that vendor results are unofficial and are for the ACO’s internal quality improvement purposes only. Intervention or follow-up with low scoring individuals is not permitted.

Vendors must follow the requirements of an executed CMS Data Use Agreement, and assure that no data that is based on fewer than 11 cases is included in any report of any kind (whether frequency, cross-tabulation, or other data display). Failure to adhere to the CMS Data Use Agreement may constitute a violation of the requirements of the Privacy Act of 1974, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule and CMS data release policies, and may be considered a breach or violation of data safeguarding. Please visit to learn more about CMS privacy policies and data safeguarding.

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How will approved survey vendors obtain the survey materials?

Survey materials will be provided to approved survey vendors on the Survey Instruments page of the CAHPS for ACOs website.

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