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Is your health plan prepared to meet NCQA’s Health Plan Accreditation Standard requirement for the Annual Assessment of Behavioral Health Care and Services?

NCQA Standard QI 4 Member Experience Element E requires plans to annually evaluate member complaints and appeals and to conduct a member experience survey. Also, Element F looks to the plan to assess data findings and identify opportunities for improvement.

With extensive experience conducting the behavioral health survey for health plans throughout the nation, SPH Analytics offers some guidance for conducting this survey.

1)  Select a Quality Survey Tool

Plans should carefully consider the survey tool to ensure it meets NCQA requirements as well as captures valuable information about your members’ experiences and perceptions.

SPH Analytics recommends the Experience of Care and Behavioral Health Outcomes (ECHO®) Survey, developed by AHRQ (the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality), to assist plans in satisfying this requirement. The ECHO Survey addresses key topics such as access to counseling and treatment, provider communication, plan or MBHO information, and overall rating of counseling and treatment received.

2)  Conduct the Survey Using a Valid and Reliable Method 

Ensure the survey is conducted using valid and reliable methods for administering the survey, collecting data, and measuring the results.

Plans should select a survey vendor with experience and expertise administering surveys to the behavioral health population. Highly developed security protocols should be in place with adherence to HIPAA and URAC security standards. Valid and reliable analysis and reporting of survey responses is an important component for meeting this requirement and for helping your plan improve performance and increase your members’ satisfaction levels.

3)  Use Benchmarking to Compare Results 

A good way to determine how well your plan performs in relation to the marketplace is to compare your results with other plans.

A survey vendor with years of experience conducting the behavioral health survey should be able to provide your plan with a benchmark. This can provide valuable information to gauge the perception of your plan’s performance compared to other plans in the market.

As competition continues to grow in the healthcare marketplace, the ability to compare your performance to other plans will become increasingly valuable.

4)  Segment Specific Groups for Greater Understanding

The ability to segment specific groups within your behavioral health member population can be beneficial in helping to better understand and care for your members’ needs.

By identifying different segments in your behavioral health population, you can conduct segmentation analysis in your final results reporting. This information provides greater understanding of the needs and perceptions of different population groups. It also provides the opportunity to develop initiatives to best meet the needs of a specific population or condition

5)  Obtain Insightful Reporting and Interpretation of Results

Meaningful reporting of your survey results is critical. Your plan needs to understand what your behavioral health members are saying about their experiences and perceptions.

Some questions that your survey responses might answer include:

  • How does your plan’s performance compare to its previous performance (trending) or to other plans in the marketplace (benchmarking)?
  • In what areas were your members satisfied or not satisfied?
  • Did you meet your members’ expectations of the plan?
  • Did they have access to the care they needed?

This information is crucial in order to continually improve and increase your plan’s performance and your members’ satisfaction. Therefore, it’s important to not only have reliable and quality reporting and analysis but also to be able to understand and interpret these results.

6)  Seek Support and Guidance

There are several details and best-practice protocols that must come together to administer a successful survey with reliable analysis and results reporting. Seek out needed support and guidance.

It’s important to select a survey vendor who will partner with you and provide guidance throughout the process to ensure your plan’s success and your peace of mind. Guidance in reviewing your survey responses and interpreting results is also a key factor, as discussed in number 5 above.

Experience, expertise, high security standards, and sensitivity to your members are all important features to seek out in a survey partner.

Additional Information and Assistance

We invite you to contact us for additional information or assistance. SPH Analytics has been conducting the Behavioral Health Survey and using the ECHO® Survey tool since it was first developed.  We are committed to serving the healthcare community and sharing information and resources to help improve the quality of healthcare.

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