rcm glossary


Packaging is the process of grouping healthcare services or procedures together under a single code for billing and reimbursement purposes.

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What is Packaging in Healthcare Revenue Cycle Management (RCM)?

In the realm of healthcare revenue cycle management (RCM), packaging refers to the process of grouping together related healthcare services or procedures into a single payment or reimbursement bundle. This bundling approach simplifies the billing and payment process for both healthcare providers and payers, streamlining administrative tasks and reducing the complexity of reimbursement.

Packaging is primarily used in the context of Medicare reimbursement, where it plays a crucial role in determining the payment for various services provided to Medicare beneficiaries. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has established specific guidelines and rules for packaging services, which are regularly updated to ensure accurate and fair reimbursement.

Key Concepts Related to Packaging

To better understand the concept of packaging in healthcare revenue cycle management, it is important to differentiate it from other related terms and concepts. Let's explore some of these key concepts:


Bundling is a broader term that encompasses the concept of packaging. While packaging refers specifically to grouping related services into a single payment, bundling includes the process of combining multiple services or procedures into a single unit of reimbursement. Bundling can involve both packaging services and procedures, as well as combining them with other components such as supplies or devices.


Unbundling is the opposite of packaging. It refers to the process of separating bundled services or procedures into individual components for billing purposes. Unbundling is typically done when the services or procedures can be separately identified and meet specific criteria for individual reimbursement. However, unbundling is subject to strict rules and guidelines to prevent inappropriate billing practices.

Global Period

The global period is a concept closely related to packaging, particularly in the context of surgical procedures. It refers to the period of time during which all related services provided as part of a surgical procedure, including pre-operative, intra-operative, and post-operative care, are considered part of a single bundled payment. The duration of the global period varies depending on the specific procedure and is determined by CMS and other payers.

Examples of Packaging in Healthcare RCM

To illustrate the concept of packaging in healthcare revenue cycle management, let's consider a few examples:

Example 1: Evaluation and Management (E/M) Services

In the case of evaluation and management services, packaging involves grouping together various components of a patient visit, such as history taking, physical examination, medical decision-making, and counseling, into a single payment. This simplifies the billing process for healthcare providers, as they do not need to submit separate claims for each component of the visit.

Example 2: Surgical Procedures

For surgical procedures, packaging involves bundling together all related services provided during the global period. This includes the pre-operative evaluation, the surgical procedure itself, and any post-operative care required. By packaging these services, healthcare providers receive a single payment that covers the entire episode of care, rather than submitting separate claims for each individual service.

Example 3: Laboratory Tests

In the case of laboratory tests, packaging may involve grouping together multiple tests that are commonly performed together or are part of a specific diagnostic panel. Instead of billing each test separately, healthcare providers can submit a single claim for the bundled laboratory services, streamlining the billing process and reducing administrative burden.


Packaging plays a vital role in healthcare revenue cycle management, particularly in the context of Medicare reimbursement. By grouping related services or procedures into a single payment, packaging simplifies the billing and payment process, reduces administrative complexity, and ensures accurate and fair reimbursement. Understanding the concept of packaging, along with its key differentiators such as bundling and unbundling, is essential for healthcare providers and professionals involved in revenue cycle management.

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