national provider identifier (NPI) definition

A national provider identifier (NPI) is a unique ten-digit identification number required by HIPAA for all health care providers in the United States. Providers must use their NPI to identify themselves in all HIPAA transactions. 

Both individual (doctors, nurses, dentists) and organizational (hospitals, clinics, nursing homes) health care providers are required to obtain an NPI. This number’s sole purpose is to facilitate organization and create national standards within HIPAA transactions; however, it is possible to use a provider’s NPI to search for their National Plan & Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) information.  The NPI itself is an “intelligence-free” number -- it carries none of the holder’s personal identification other than a name and business address.

Having an NPI does not guarantee that a provider is licensed but all licensed providers must have an NPI.

This was first published in February 2011

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