Frequently Asked Questions

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The CAHPS® surveys were developed with scientific rigor. AHRQ makes sure the surveys are up to date and that the surveys are consistent with the best practices and that they produce useful information. CAHPS surveys are designed to capture information about the experience of care, rather than patient satisfaction. Because of the emphasis on patient experience, CAHPS surveys offer information that's concrete and actionable. One of the most concrete benefits of CAHPS surveys is being able to compare one health care organization's performance to similar organizations.

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The CAHPS® Database is the national repository for data from the CAHPS family of surveys. Since its inception in 1998, this database has served as an important resource for survey sponsors, researchers, and others interested in using comparative CAHPS survey results and detailed benchmark data. The CAHPS Database contains respondent-level survey data, characteristics of entities surveyed (e.g., health plans, medical groups and practice sites), and other information related to survey administration. These data and information are submitted voluntarily by survey users according to standard specifications.

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The CAHPS® Ambulatory Care Improvement Guide is a comprehensive resource for health plans, medical groups, and other providers seeking to improve their performance in the domains of patient experience measured by CAHPS surveys of ambulatory care. This guide will help organizations: cultivate an environment that encourages and sustains improvements in patient-centered care; analyze the results of CAHPS surveys and other forms of patient feedback to identify strengths and weaknesses; and develop strategies for improving performance. The Guide helps organizations assess their readiness to improve, assess ways to approach the quality improvement process, determine where to focus efforts, and help to develop strategies for improving patient experience in ambulatory care settings.

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The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) is a nationwide study conducted to learn more about the health care services people use, the charges for those services, and how those services are paid for. MEPS is conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Major components of MEPS include surveys of:

  • A nationally representative sample of households.
  • Hospitals, physicians, and other medical providers including pharmacies reported by the household participants.
  • Providers of health insurance.

MEPS is the most complete source of data available on health care use and expenses in the United States. For more detailed information on MEPS, go to:

The software packages most suitable for analyzing Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) data are SAS, Stata, SPSS, SUDAAN, and R survey. For more information, go to

The AHRQ Data Center is a place where researchers with approved projects can access MEPS files that are not available for public use. These files may contain data that AHRQ has not fully edited, or may contain levels of detail that are not approved for public release.

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Within the documentation for the MEPS-HC public use data files a variable-source crosswalk is provided. The following information is provided: variable; description; and source.

Data files and their accompanying documentation can be found at

For reasons of confidentiality, the MPC file cannot be publicly released. The MPC is not designed to produce national estimates, and, for budgetary reasons, not all household-reported events are fielded in the MPC. MPC data are used to supplement/replace household data to produce the MEPS expenditure estimates. Selected data elements from the MPC data collection may be accessed in the AHRQ Data Center or one of the Census Bureau's Research Data Centers for approved research projects.

The MEPS Insurance/Employer Component (MEPS-IC) is an annual survey of employers that collects information on employers' health insurance offerings. The MEPS-IC was first conducted for the 1996 calendar year. There are two distinct parts to the MEPS-IC: the List Sample and the Household Sample. While these samples are designed to address different survey goals, the two have been combined to make data collection more efficient. The U.S. Census Bureau serves as the data collection agent for the MEPS-IC survey.

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The last Nursing Home Component survey was conducted in 1996. There are no plans to conduct another Nursing Home Component survey.

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