The National Committee for Quality Assurance has issued a standardized survey to measure satisfaction with managed-care plans and make the results comparable from plan to plan.
The 34-question survey is intended to shore up one of the more glaring weaknesses of the Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set, the 60 measures of quality, efficiency, access and membership policies used by more than 300 of the nation's health plans to report performance information to employers and other large healthcare purchasers.
Besides measuring the performance of individual plans, the HEDIS initiative also seeks to give employers a basis for comparing plans when making healthcare purchasing decisions.
When it came to gathering data on the satisfaction of enrollees with their care and customer service, however, two separate studies of HEDIS effectiveness found it was nearly impossible to compare enrollee-satisfaction data because there were so many ways to ask the same types of questions and tabulate the results (March 20, p. 60).
The survey issued last week incorporates questions from tested surveys already in use, most prominently the survey developed by the Group Health Association of America.
It's divided into four areas: satisfaction with care and services; enrollment and use of services; health and daily activities; and sociodemographic status.
The inclusion of questions related to health status sets up the survey for adjustment based on different levels of community health from plan to plan, said Cary Sennett, M.D., the NCQA's vice president for performance measurement.
Currently there's no way to make allowances for pre-existing health problems that complicate a plan's efforts to keep its enrollees well.
"Typically people who are less healthy (to start with) are not as easily satisfied," Sennett said.
To guarantee the survey's credibility and enhance its comparability, the NCQA has instructed that it be conducted by an outside firm, not by the health plan itself. Surveys not independently conducted won't be allowed to carry the HEDIS name, Sennett said.
The NCQA issued an invitation last week to all health plans in the industry to participate in an evaluation of the survey. Responses are due by the end of August.