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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a mode experiment?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is testing various methods or “modes” of collecting survey data. Right now, the HHCAHPS Survey collects data by mail, telephone, and mail with telephone follow-up of nonrespondents. One of the objectives of this experiment is to look closely at the potential for adding a Web-based mode of data collection.

What is the purpose of the HHCAHPS Web mode experiment?

The HHCAHPS mode experiment will allow CMS the ability to investigate the feasibility of using a web-based mode to collect HHCAHPS Survey data. In addition, it will allow CMS to test a shorter, revised HHCAHPS Survey instrument that includes new questions. The results of the mode experiment will play a major role in the refinement of HHCAHPS Survey administration before it is rolled out nationally.

What are the modes to be tested?

In this mode experiment, CMS will explore strategies to add a web survey option to the existing data collection modes of mail-only, telephone-only and mixed mode (mail with telephone follow-up) by incorporating a web with mail follow-up mode. Patients will be randomly assigned to each survey mode to assess the impact of survey mode on responses, if any. We are excited to learn more about the potential of offering a web survey option.

When is the mode experiment scheduled to occur?

Recruitment for the mode experiment will open in early 2021. We are recruiting approximately 100 home health agencies to participate. Data will be collected across three sample months and is scheduled to begin in late 2021.

Who is conducting the mode experiment? How can I verify that the request is legitimate?

CMS is supervising, overseeing, and funding the mode experiment, which will be implemented with assistance from RTI International (“RTI”), a nonprofit research organization headquartered in North Carolina. RTI will prepare and mail the questionnaires, conduct the telephone interviews, initiate the web survey, analyze the data, and prepare summary results. You may contact CMS at homehealthcahps@cms.hhs.gov about the legitimacy of this request to participate in the HHCAHPS Survey mode experiment. Additional information about RTI can be found on their official website linked here: https://www.rti.org/.

How will participation in the mode experiment affect my agency’s participation in the HHCAHPS Survey?

RTI will work directly with your HHCAHPS Survey vendor to use sample that is “leftover” after your regular monthly HHCAHPS Survey sample has been selected. You would not need to change your usual process for submitting files to your vendor, and your participation will not affect your agency’s ability to fulfill the requirement for participation in the HHCAHPS Survey to receive the Annual Payment Update.

Is there a fee involved to participate?

There is no cost to agencies to participate in the mode experiment. CMS will cover the costs of data collection and analysis.

What data security measures are in place?

RTI will work closely with your HHCAHPS Survey vendor to ensure that patient data are securely transferred. RTI has policies, procedures, systems, and processes in place to ensure that personally identifiable information (PII) and private health information (PHI) are protected and secured at all times. There is a letter available on the HHCAHPS mode experiment website (under “Information for HHAs”) from RTI’s Privacy Officer that addresses more specifically how RTI protects PHI and PII.

Are home health agencies required by federal law to participate in the mode experiment?

No. Participation is voluntary. However, we hope your agency will participate so that the general population of agencies that provide home health care across the country is accurately represented.

Why should my agency participate in the mode experiment?

By participating, your agency will have an opportunity to get an early look at how your patients respond to the new, revised survey and to a web-based survey administration option. At the conclusion of the study, you will receive a summary report with your results compared to aggregated results of other participating HHAs (none of which will be identified).

How does my agency participate in the mode experiment?

Participation in the mode experiment is easy!

  • Alert the HHCAHPS Survey Coordination Team of your interest. Complete the online Participant Interest Form available on the HHCAHPS mode experiment website, linked here. This will give your HHCAHPS Survey vendor permission to give RTI any unused sample for the mode experiment, for three sample months.
  • Work with your HHCAHPS Survey vendor or software vendor to incorporate patient email addresses into your monthly file, if possible. One of the ways RTI intends to invite patients who are assigned to the Web survey mode to participate is via email. NOTE: This is not a requirement to participate in the mode experiment; however, the inclusion of patient email addresses could increase response to the web survey and help RTI’s evaluation of implementing a web-based mode at a national level.
  • Continue providing monthly patient information files to your HHCAHPS Survey vendor in a timely manner. During the mode experiment, your agency will continue to deliver your normal monthly patient file to your HHCAHPS Survey vendor. Your survey vendor and RTI will do everything else!

What if I have additional questions about HHCAHPS or the Web mode experiment?

We welcome questions and comments via our email address at hhcahpsmode@rti.org or our toll-free number 1-866-662-8174 (please leave a message).