Case Study

Case Study: Measuring the patient experience

Commonwealth Medicine is now ForHealth Consulting at UMass Chan Medical School. More information available here. This content has not been updated with the new name.

A network of federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in New York wanted to continue its annual measurement of patient experience to maintain its Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). In addition to achieving PCMH recognition, the FQHCs wished to understand how well they are serving their patients and gain insights into how they can further improve patient experience.

The Challenge: Reaching the right audience

The FQHC network was dissatisfied with the results provided by its survey vendor, both in terms of response rates and the presentation of results.

The key challenge in conducting the survey was to generate a response rate sufficient to provide reliable results. This is difficult to accomplish for consumer surveys in general and even more problematic when surveying vulnerable patient populations. While a single survey mode, such as paper or online, may be the most economical to administer, the resulting response rates are usually quite low.

Our Approach: Expanding the options to increase participation

The network contracted with Commonwealth Medicine to administer its annual patient experience surveys starting in 2018. Our experts administered the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) PCMH survey using a mixed-mode methodology to maximize survey response rates.

  • We used three modes of data collection: mail, online via PC/smartphone/tablet, and phone.
  • We sampled patients from each of the twelve FQHCs based on the number of eligible clinicians per practice.
  • Patients were surveyed in English and Spanish based on their preferred language.
  • The survey assessed patient experience in several domains of care, including access, communication, coordination, self-management support, and comprehensiveness.
  • In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 survey was modified to include patient perceptions of telehealth visits in addition to in-person visits.


We have successfully administered the annual CAHPS PCMH patient experience survey each year beginning in 2018, and our client is very pleased with the results.

  • High survey response rate of 48 percent overall in 2020.
  • To date, all 12 practices have fulfilled requirements for NCQA PCMH recognition.
  • Our customized practice-level reports display the results in a visually-rich format and provide actionable information to help the practices further improve patient experience.