Evaluating the patient experience: CAHPS survey tool provides unique insights into patient care

By: Joseph Dill, DDS, MBA, Head of Dental Science, Delta Dental Institute and Chief Dental Officer, Delta Dental Plans Association

It is well understood that patients who have positive experiences in accessing health care also have improved health outcomes.1. That’s why in 2018, Delta Dental became the first and only commercial dental carrier to adopt the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) Dental Plan Survey to learn about patients’ oral health care experiences.

The CAHPS survey explores aspects of care patients value most and that only patients can convey. Questions focus on experiences related to the care they received, their overall experience when visiting a network dentist, and their dental plan features. Topics such as access to care, communication, comfort, ease of finding a dentist, plan coverage, and more are covered. This survey is a critical tool that allows us to more effectively advance patient-centered care and improve the quality of dental services patients receive.

What is the CAHPS Dental Plan Survey? 

The CAHPS Dental Plan Survey is one of several different CAHPS surveys that were developed under the guidance of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and is considered the gold standard for measuring patient experience. It is used by many federal agencies and health care organizations to understand and improve the quality-of-care patients experience, including by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, as well as medical insurers, hospitals, and physician groups. The CAHPS Dental Plan Survey is an anonymous, standardized survey tool to evaluate a patient’s experience throughout their dental care journey. It only takes about three minutes to complete and covers nearly every aspect of a patient’s interactions with the oral health care system, from interactions with the dental plan to visiting the dentist’s office. 

How do we use the data?  

By sharing anonymized results with individual dentists regarding how their patients are experiencing care in their offices, we are ensuring that the Delta Dental network of oral health professionals strives to provide exceptional care to their patients. With many serious health conditions like stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes linked to oral disease, as we work to improve our members’ oral health, we also improve their overall health. 

Deploying the CAHPS Dental Plan Survey benefits dentists by providing them with valuable feedback they can use to improve patient experiences and satisfaction within their practices based on how patients rate each component of their dental care experience. By sharing the survey results with our network of providers, we can focus on strategies that advance quality care, strengthen the provider-patient bond, and improve patients’ oral health. 

What have we learned so far?  

With the results from extensive surveying, we’re pleased that patients rated their experience with our network of dentists on average a 9.5 out of 10 and their dental care a 9.4 out of 10. Additionally, 96% of patients said their dentist and dental staff treated them with courtesy and respect. Though we are proud of these results so far, Delta Dental is committed to continuing to work with our network of dental professionals to deliver better care, better value, and better health outcomes to our patients.

What’s next for the CAHPS Dental Plan Survey?

We will continue to deploy this survey to track our year-over-year progress and maintain the support of our Delta Dental network providers in delivering high-quality, patient-centered care to all our beneficiaries. The CAPHS Dental Plan Survey has already demonstrated immense value in supporting our patients’ oral health journeys, and we continue to find new value in the data, which could include a better understanding of health equity.