Although a controversial plan to assign national provider identifier numbers under HIPAA remains on hold, pharmacy interests have begun assigning ID numbers to anyone with prescribing rights without the knowledge of the practitioners they intend to track.
In late March, the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based trade association for pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies and pharmacy benefits managers, launched HCIdea, a not-for-profit initiative to standardize prescribing databases.
National provider and patient identification numbers were part of the original HIPAA legislation. The provider number is stalled in rulemaking, and Congress barred the patient ID. Putting an NCPDP numbering system in place could give the trade association a leg up for government sanctioning of its system should the HIPAA logjam ever break.
Under HCIdea, an ID number will be assigned to a prescriber, whether he or she wants one or not.
"It is not up to the docs whether they want to participate," says HCIdea spokesperson Jennifer Kunc. "They're not going to know their number. It is more for claims processing."
However, internist and e-prescribing consultant Scott Yates, M.D., medical director of North Texas Medical Group in The Colony, Texas, disputes the notion that the HCIdea number is a claims-processing tool because Medicare assigns a unique provider identification number (UPIN) to virtually all prescribers nationwide.
"They can't make a persuasive argument for needing this number for claims processing because of the UPIN," Yates says. "Nice try, folks."
Kunc says HCIdea is now in its "data-supplying stage," comparing information from Medicare, claims processors, chain pharmacies and PBMs. When running, HCIdea will track prescribing patterns and offer the information for data mining purposes, Kunc says. Future "value-added fields" may include physician e-mail addresses, she adds.