rcm glossary

Charge description

Charge description is a concise and detailed explanation of the services or procedures provided to a patient, including the associated costs and billing codes.

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What is Charge Description?

In the realm of healthcare revenue cycle management (RCM), the term "charge description" refers to a detailed explanation or description of the services or procedures provided to a patient by a healthcare provider. It is an essential component of the billing process as it helps in accurately identifying and categorizing the services rendered, ensuring proper reimbursement from insurance companies or patients.

Importance of Charge Description

The charge description plays a crucial role in the revenue cycle management process as it serves as a key reference point for various stakeholders involved, including healthcare providers, billing and coding professionals, insurance companies, and patients. Here are a few reasons why charge description is of utmost importance:

1. Accurate Billing: The charge description provides a clear and concise breakdown of the services or procedures performed, enabling accurate billing. It ensures that the healthcare provider is reimbursed appropriately for the services rendered, avoiding under or overbilling scenarios.

2. Coding Accuracy: Charge descriptions are closely linked to medical coding, which involves assigning specific codes to each service or procedure for billing purposes. Accurate charge descriptions facilitate correct coding, reducing the chances of coding errors that could lead to claim denials or delays in reimbursement.

3. Compliance with Regulations: Healthcare providers must adhere to various regulations and guidelines set forth by governmental bodies and insurance companies. Charge descriptions help ensure compliance by accurately documenting the services provided, which can be audited for regulatory purposes.

4. Transparency for Patients: Patients have the right to understand the services they receive and the associated costs. Charge descriptions provide transparency by clearly outlining the services rendered, allowing patients to review and understand the charges on their medical bills.

Difference between Charge Description and CPT Codes

While charge descriptions and Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes are closely related, they serve different purposes in the healthcare revenue cycle management process.

Charge descriptions provide a detailed narrative of the services or procedures performed, including the specific details of the treatment, diagnosis, or tests conducted. They are typically written in plain language that is easily understandable by patients and non-medical professionals. Charge descriptions are primarily used for internal documentation, billing, and communication with patients.

On the other hand, CPT codes are standardized numeric codes assigned to specific medical procedures or services. These codes are developed and maintained by the American Medical Association (AMA) and are used for billing and reimbursement purposes. CPT codes provide a uniform language for healthcare providers, insurance companies, and other stakeholders to communicate about the services rendered. They are more concise and structured compared to charge descriptions.

In summary, charge descriptions provide a detailed narrative of the services rendered, while CPT codes offer standardized numeric codes for billing and reimbursement purposes.

Examples of Charge Descriptions

To provide a better understanding, here are a few examples of charge descriptions for different healthcare services:

1. Example Charge Description for an Office Visit:

"Comprehensive Evaluation and Management of a New Patient - Level 3: Detailed history and examination, medical decision-making of moderate complexity, and coordination of care."

2. Example Charge Description for a Laboratory Test:

"Complete Blood Count (CBC) with Differential: Analysis of blood sample to evaluate red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, including differential counts."

3. Example Charge Description for a Surgical Procedure:

"Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy: Minimally invasive surgical removal of the gallbladder using a laparoscope."

4. Example Charge Description for Radiology Services:

"Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Brain without Contrast: Non-invasive imaging technique using magnetic fields and radio waves to visualize the brain structures and detect abnormalities."

These examples demonstrate how charge descriptions provide a clear and concise explanation of the services or procedures performed, ensuring accurate billing and facilitating communication between healthcare providers, insurance companies, and patients.


In healthcare revenue cycle management, charge descriptions play a vital role in accurately documenting and communicating the services provided to patients. They serve as a reference point for billing, coding, compliance, and transparency. Understanding the importance of charge descriptions and their distinction from CPT codes is crucial for healthcare professionals and stakeholders involved in the revenue cycle management process. By maintaining accurate and detailed charge descriptions, healthcare providers can ensure proper reimbursement, regulatory compliance, and improved patient satisfaction.

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