Studies have been conducted over the past decade to develop a Resource-Based Relative Value Scale (RBRVS) for physicians' services. Policymakers view an RBRVS as a potential tool to pay physicians. The Physician Payment Review Commission, under a congressional mandate, has endorsed the general concept of a fee schedule based on resource costs for physician payment under Medicare. In this overview article, we present the policy context in which the RBRVS may play a role and describe the approach taken to develop this scale, specifically consultation with clinicians, researchers, and insurers and data gathering, including a national survey of physicians. We discuss underlying elements that are necessary to constructing an RBRVS, each of which is described more fully in subsequent articles: measuring the work (intraservice work) of performing medical services and procedures, estimating preservice and postservice work, comparing work across specialties, measuring practice costs, extrapolating from surveyed services, and establishing an RBRVS for evaluation/management services and for invasive procedures. Overall results are presented in a companion article.