What Do Consumers Want to Know about the Quality of Care in Hospitals?


  • Shoshanna Sofaer,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Address correspondence to Shoshanna Sofaer, Dr.P.H., School of Public Affairs, Baruch College, 17 Lexington Avenue, Box D615, New York, NY 10010. Christine Crofton, Ph.D., is with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. Elizabeth Goldstein, Ph.D., is with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Baltimore, MD. Elizabeth Hoy, M.H.A. and Jenny Crabb, B.A., are with Westat Inc., Rockville, MD.

  • Christine Crofton,

  • Elizabeth Goldstein,

  • Elizabeth Hoy,

  • Jenny Crabb


Objective. To guide the development of the Consumer Assessments of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) Hospital Survey by identifying which domains of hospital quality included in a survey of recent hospital patients, and which survey items within those domains, would be of greatest interest to consumers and patients.

Data Sources/Study Setting. Primary data were collected in four cities (Baltimore, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Orlando), from a demographically varied mix of people of whom most, but not all, had recently been hospitalized or had a close loved one hospitalized.

Study Design/Data Collection Method. A total of 16 focus groups were held in these four cities. Groups were structured to be homogeneous with respect to type of health care coverage (Medicare, non-Medicare), and type of recent hospital experience (urgent admission, elective admission, maternity admission, no admission). They were heterogeneous with respect to race/ethnicity, gender, and educational attainment. In addition to moderated discussions, focus group participants completed a pregroup questionnaire and various paper and pencil exercises during the groups.

Principal Findings. A wide range of features were identified by participants as being relevant to hospital quality. Many were consonant with domains and items in the CAHPS Hospital Survey; however, some addressed structural features of hospitals and hospital outcomes that are not best derived from a patient experience survey. When shown the domains and items being considered for inclusion in the CAHPS Hospital Survey, participants were most interested in items relating to doctor communication with patients, nurse and hospital staff communication with patients, responsiveness to patient needs, and cleanliness of the hospital room and bathroom. Findings were quite consistent across groups regardless of location and participant characteristics.

Conclusions. Consumers and patients have a high degree of interest in hospital quality and found a very high proportion of the items being considered for the CAHPS Hospital Survey to be so important they would consider changing hospitals in response to information about them. Hospital choice may well be constrained for patients, but publicly reported information from a patient perspective can also be used to support patient discussions with facilities and physicians about how to ensure patients have the best hospital experience possible.