rcm glossary

Conversion factor (CF)

Conversion factor (CF) is a numerical value used to convert relative value units (RVUs) into payment rates for healthcare services in the revenue cycle management (RCM) process.

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What is Conversion Factor (CF)?

Conversion Factor (CF) is a crucial term in healthcare revenue cycle management (RCM) that refers to a multiplier used to convert the relative value units (RVUs) assigned to a specific medical service into a dollar amount. It is an essential component in determining the reimbursement rates for healthcare services provided by healthcare professionals, facilities, and organizations.

The CF is a fixed dollar amount that is multiplied by the RVUs assigned to a particular service to calculate the payment amount. It is typically updated annually by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and is used as a standard for reimbursement across various payers, including Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies.

Understanding Relative Value Units (RVUs)

Before delving deeper into the concept of Conversion Factor, it is essential to understand the concept of Relative Value Units (RVUs). RVUs are a measure of the resources required to provide a specific medical service, including physician work, practice expense, and malpractice expense. These units are assigned to each service or procedure by the American Medical Association's (AMA) Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC).

RVUs consist of three components:

1. Physician Work RVUs: This component represents the time, skill, effort, and intensity required by a physician to perform a specific service. It includes factors such as the complexity of the procedure, the mental and physical effort involved, and the level of risk associated with the service.

2. Practice Expense RVUs: Practice expense RVUs account for the overhead costs incurred by a healthcare practice to provide a particular service. It includes expenses such as rent, equipment, supplies, non-physician staff salaries, and other administrative costs.

3. Malpractice Expense RVUs: Malpractice expense RVUs reflect the cost of professional liability insurance associated with a specific service. Procedures with higher risks or complications generally have higher malpractice expense RVUs.

Conversion Factor vs. Fee Schedule

While the terms Conversion Factor and Fee Schedule are often used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings in the context of healthcare revenue cycle management.

A Conversion Factor (CF) is a fixed dollar amount that is multiplied by the RVUs to calculate the payment amount for a specific service. It is a multiplier that converts the relative value of a service into a dollar amount.

On the other hand, a Fee Schedule is a comprehensive list of services and their corresponding payment amounts. It includes the RVUs assigned to each service and the applicable Conversion Factor. The Fee Schedule provides a standardized payment structure for healthcare services and is used by payers to determine reimbursement rates.

In summary, the Conversion Factor is the multiplier used to convert RVUs into dollar amounts, while the Fee Schedule is a comprehensive list that includes RVUs, Conversion Factors, and payment amounts for each service.

Examples of Conversion Factor Calculation

To illustrate the calculation of the Conversion Factor, let's consider a hypothetical scenario:

1. Assume that a specific medical service has been assigned 10 Physician Work RVUs, 5 Practice Expense RVUs, and 2 Malpractice Expense RVUs.

2. The Conversion Factor for the given year is $50.To calculate the payment amount for this service, we need to multiply the sum of the RVUs by the Conversion Factor:

Total RVUs = Physician Work RVUs + Practice Expense RVUs + Malpractice Expense RVUs

Total RVUs = 10 + 5 + 2 = 17

Payment Amount = Total RVUs x Conversion Factor

Payment Amount = 17 x $50 = $850

Therefore, the payment amount for the specific medical service would be $850 based on the given Conversion Factor.


In healthcare revenue cycle management, the Conversion Factor (CF) plays a vital role in determining the reimbursement rates for healthcare services. It is a multiplier used to convert the relative value units (RVUs) assigned to a specific service into a dollar amount. The CF is multiplied by the sum of the RVUs to calculate the payment amount.

Understanding the Conversion Factor is crucial for healthcare professionals, facilities, and organizations involved in the billing and reimbursement process. It helps ensure accurate and fair reimbursement for the services provided, considering factors such as physician work, practice expenses, and malpractice expenses.

By maintaining an up-to-date knowledge of the Conversion Factor and its impact on reimbursement rates, healthcare providers can effectively manage their revenue cycle and optimize their financial performance.

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