The National Council for Prescription Drug Programs is about two-thirds of the way to its goal of tagging all U.S. prescribers with a unique identification number. Those involved include not only physicians but also physician residents; interns; nurses; physician assistants, who often don't have their own Medicare unique physician identification number, or UPIN; and prescribers who don't have Drug Enforcement Agency numbers.
Two years ago, when the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based not-for-profit announced it would develop its national database, it set a goal of creating unique identification numbers
for 1.5 million prescribers. Today, there are more than 1 million validated prescriber records in the group's HCIdea national database of prescribers and another 300,000 or more being checked and processed, says Dorothy Dart, manager of HCIdea services.
Having a unique ID number for every prescriber "is going to be extremely important as we enter into some of our e-prescribing initiatives," Dart says.
The Defense Department has been running a pilot project with the database and recently signed a 10-year contract. The department "has been using it since last summer," she says. "They're very happy with it." Dart says Utah's Medicaid program also is starting to test the database with an eye toward rolling it out in January.
In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act called for the development of a national provider identifier, or NPI, but the effort met opposition and stalled after Congress cut off funding in 1999. On Jan. 23, the CMS published a final rule on an NPI that would create an ID number for all healthcare providers. When implemented, the rule will require all "covered entities" to use only the NPI to identify providers in all standard transactions. Other numbers will not be permitted.
Registration can commence on May 23, 2005, but the compliance date for most covered entities is not until May 27, 2007, with an extension until May 23, 2008, for small health plans.
Dart says the rule will not eliminate the usefulness of HCIdea, however, because of added functionality. The NPI, for example, will provide for only one practice address, whereas the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs has in its database providers with as many as 20 addresses, she says. The HCIdea database also will have room to carry multiple ID numbers so users can cross-check providers.
Later on, the database will provide additional data fields, including the physician's medical specialties and subspecialties, fax numbers, alternate phone and fax numbers for refill communications, and e-mail addresses.