How does a vendor apply to become a PCF PECS approved vendor?

For the PY21 PCF PECS, CMS sent an invitation via email to vendors that are currently approved by CMS to conduct CAHPS surveys using mail and telephone modes. Vendors interested in applying for future years of the PCF model should be approved by CMS for the administration of CAHPS surveys using the above-mentioned modes.

Will CMS be approving additional vendors in future years?

Each January of the model, CMS will invite applications from vendors who are approved to conduct mail and phone CAHPS surveys for CMS. These vendors will be required to meet all of the minimum business requirements, complete the training, and submit an approved QAP to become fully approved. Once fully approved, vendors do not need to re-apply.

What are the requirements to become a survey vendor?

Invited survey vendors must complete an application to become conditionally approved. Conditionally approved vendors must 1) participate in the Introduction to the PCF PECS webinar training session; 2) successfully complete the training certification; and 3) complete and submit a Quality Assurance Plan.

When will the approved PCF PECS vendor list be released?

The PCF PECS Vendor Solicitation occurs in January of each Performance Year. The updated vendor list is published in May.

Who can vendors contact if they have questions about the PCF PECS?

Please contact the PCF PECS Team via e-mail at or call 1-833-997-2715.

Can vendors advertise their conditional approval?

While CMS is not normally involved in the business side of survey vendor activities, we want to ensure practices are given accurate information. CMS will publish an official list of fully approved vendors no later than the end of May, each performance year. We request that any announcements made before this date specify that you are currently conditionally approved.

Is vendor training required annually?

After the survey vendor's (or Key-subcontractor's) first year of participation in PCF PECS, survey vendors will need to attend a PCF PECS Update Training Webinar training session. Attending the full Introduction to the PCF PECS Webinar training session is not required unless the survey vendor has a new staff person serving as their Survey Administrator who has not previously attended Introduction to the PCF PECS Webinar training.

Is a Quality Assurance Plan (QAP) required annually?

Yes, in subsequent performance years, vendors must submit QAPs annually to maintain their Full Approval status. When submitting a QAP after the first year, vendors should highlight any changes to their QAP from the prior submission. Vendors are also required to update/resubmit their QAP when there are major changes/updates to vendor staff or processes (regardless of the annual deadline).

Can vendors use existing BAAs with practices?

Yes, if they are current and accurate.

Is there a specific BAA form that must be used?

No. More information about Business Associates can be found here. An example BAA can be downloaded from here.

Survey Administration

Which official CAHPS survey needs to be fielded for Primary Care First?

The PCF PECS is based on a combination of questions from the CG-CAHPS v.3.1 and CAHPS Patient-Centered Medical Home Item Set v. 3.0. A copy of the survey is posted on the PCF PECS web portal for vendors and practices and can be found here.

When will data collection for the PCF PECS occur?

Data collection occurs in the fall of each performance year.

What are the data collection modes for the PCF PECS?

The PCF PECS is an annual survey conducted once per year. It is a single phase of data collection. Sampled patients will receive up to 2 mail surveys and 6 telephone calls over the 12-week data collection period.

Where can I find the survey materials for the PCF PECS?

The survey materials for the PCF PECS are posted here.

Where can I find the training materials for the PCF PECS?

The agenda and slides for the PCF PECS vendor webinar training are posted here.

Who will draw the sample?

CMS will draw the sample.

What languages are allowed for the PCF PECS administration?

All practice sites and vendors are required to offer survey administration in English and Spanish. CMS will provide all Spanish translations.

Are supplemental questions allowed for the PCF PECS administration?

Yes, practices can add practice-specific questions as long as they abide by the requirements in the Quality Assurance Guidelines Section 5.5.6.

Are survey vendors allowed to conduct some analysis and reporting for their client?

The PCF PEC Survey team recommends that survey vendors who wish to provide a report for their client practices wait until after final data submission has been accepted before sending any of their client practices reports on their survey results. This allows the PCF PECS Team time to review the data and response rates and provide initial feedback to vendors. There are 7 guidelines found in the Quality Assurance Guidelines Section 8.4: (1) All reports provided to PCF PECS practice sites must include a disclaimer statement that the vendor results are not official CMS results and are for internal quality improvement purposes only. (2) Survey vendors may provide PCF practice sites with survey data or information from their practice as long as the survey vendor suppresses any display of data that includes cell sizes with fewer than 11 observations. (3) Survey vendors must have CMS approval to append data from the sample file to the survey data. (4) Survey vendors are not permitted to provide practices with patient identifying information. (5) Respondent names cannot be shared with practices, even if the respondent wishes to do so. (6) Added practice-specific questions may collect open ended comments or service information that could identify the patient. Reponses may have identifying data. You cannot share this with practices. (7) Survey vendors should contact the PCF PECS Team for additional guidance if they are not clear as to whether certain types of survey response data can be shared with a PCF practice site.