The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) wants to learn how well consumers understand what health plans and health care professionals are telling them.

AHRQ, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has discussed preliminary work on the new survey module in a routine information collection notice published today in the Federal Register.

Federal law requires agencies to go through a review process and get permission from the Office of Management and Budget before collecting information from the public.

AHRQ officials want to add a new ”Health Literacy Item Set Supplemental” module to the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey.

The agency started the CAHPS survey program in 1995 to find out what health plan enrollees think about their health plans.

CAHPS survey managers want to produce results that are easy to compare from year to year and from sponsor to sponsor.

RAND Corp., Santa Monica, Calif., is the contractor that oversees the surveys.

Survey program managers are developing the health literacy module “to examine health plan enrollees’ perspectives on how well health information is communicated to them by health plans and by health care professionals in the health plan setting,” AHRQ officials say in the information collection notice. “The objective of the new module is to provide information health plans, clinicians, group practices, and other interested parties regarding the quality of health information delivered to patients.”

AHRQ hope to get literacy module responses from about 1,000 consumers.

Researchers will test the module before trying to use it, officials say. The pre-test will include analysis of item wording and analysis of telephone and mail pre-test survey participation rates

Comments on the module pre-test are due Aug. 8.

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