We have had extensive consultations with health care providers, health plans, and members of health data standards organizations on the requirements for provider practice addresses and on the group and organization data in the NPS. (It is important to note that the NPS is designed to capture a health care provider’s mailing address. The mailing address is a data element separate from the practice address, and, as such, is not the subject of the discussion below.) Following are the major questions relating to these issues:
· Should the NPS capture practice addresses of health care providers?
For: Practice addresses could aid in non-electronic matching of health care providers and in conversion of existing provider number systems to NPIs. They could be useful for research specific to practice location; for example, involving fraud or epidemiology.
Against: Practice addresses would be of limited use in the electronic identification and matching of health care providers. The large number of practice locations of some group providers, the frequent relocation of provider offices, and the temporary situations under which a health care provider may practice at a particular location would make maintenance of practice addresses burdensome and expensive.
· Should the NPS assign a location code to each practice address in a health care provider’s record? The location code would be a 2-position alphanumeric data element. It would be a data element in the NPS but would not be part of the NPI. It would point to a certain practice address in the health care provider’s record and would be usable only in conjunction with that health care provider’s NPI. It would not stand alone as a unique identifier for the address.
For: The location code could be used to designate a specific practice address for the health care provider, eliminating the need to perform an address match each time the address is retrieved. The location code might be usable, in conjunction with a health care provider’s NPI, as a designation for service location in electronic health transactions.
Against: Location codes should not be created and assigned nationally unless required to support standard electronic health transactions; this requirement has not been demonstrated. The format of the location code would allow for a lifetime maximum of 900 location codes per health care provider; this number may not be adequate for groups with many locations. The location code would not uniquely identify an address; different health care providers practicing at the same address would have different location codes for that address, causing confusion for business offices that maintain data for large numbers of health care providers.
· Should the NPS link the NPI of a group provider to the NPIs of the individual providers who are members of the group?
For: Linkage of the group NPI to individual members’ NPIs would provide a connection from the group provider, which is possibly not licensed or certified, to the individual members who are licensed, certified or otherwise authorized to provide health care services.
Against: The large number of members of some groups and the frequent moves of individuals among groups would make national maintenance of group membership burdensome and expensive. Organizations that need to know group membership prefer to maintain this information locally, so that they can ensure its accuracy for their purposes.
· Should the NPS collect the same data for organization and group providers? There would be no distinction between organization and group providers. Each health care provider would be categorized in the NPS either as an individual or as an organization. Each separate physical location or subpart of an organization that needed to be identified would receive its own NPI. The NPS would not link the NPI of an organization provider to the NPI of any other health care provider, although all organizations with the same employer identification number (EIN) or same name would be retrievable via a query on that EIN or name.
For: The categorization of health care providers as individuals or organizations would provide flexibility for enumeration of integrated provider organizations. Eliminating the separate category of group providers would eliminate an artificial distinction between groups and organizations. It would eliminate the possibility that the same entity would be enumerated as both a group and an organization. It would eliminate any need for location codes for groups. It would allow enumeration at the lowest level that needs to be identified, offering flexibility for enumerators, health plans or other users of NPS data to link organization NPIs as they require in their own systems.
Against: A single business entity could have multiple NPIs, corresponding to its physical locations or subparts.
We present two alternatives to illustrate how answers to the questions posed above would affect enumeration and health care provider data in the NPS. Since the results would depend upon whether the health care provider is an individual, organization, or group, we refer the reader to section II.B.3., Definitions, of this preamble.
The NPS would capture practice addresses. It would assign a location code for each practice address of an individual or group provider. Organization and group providers would be distinguished and would have different associated data in the NPS. Organization providers could have only one location per NPI and could not have individuals listed as members. Group providers could have multiple locations with location codes per NPI and would have individuals listed as members.
For individual providers, the NPS would capture each practice address and assign a corresponding location code. The NPS would link the NPIs of individuals who are listed as members of a group with the NPI of their group.
For organization providers, the NPS would capture the single active practice address. It would not assign a corresponding location code.
For group providers, the NPS would capture each practice address and assign a corresponding location code. The NPS would link the NPI of a group with the NPIs of all individuals who are listed as members of the group. A group location would have a different location code in the members’ individual records and the group record.
The NPS would capture only one practice address for an individual or organization provider. It would not assign location codes. The NPS would not link the NPI of a group provider to the NPIs of individuals who are members of the group. Organization and group providers would not be distinguished from each other in the NPS. Each health care provider would be categorized as either an individual or an organization.
For individual providers, the NPS would capture a single practice address. It would not assign a corresponding location code.
For organization providers, each separate physical location or subpart that needed to be identified would receive its own NPI. The NPS would capture the single active practice address of the organization. It would not assign a corresponding location code.
Recent consultations with health care providers, health plans, and members of health data standards organizations have indicated a growing consensus for Alternative 2 discussed above. Representatives of these organizations feel that Alternative 2 will provide the data needed to identify the health care provider at the national level, while reducing burdensome data maintenance associated with provider practice location addresses and group membership. We welcome comments on these and other alternatives for collection of practice location addresses and assignment of location codes, and on the group and organization provider data within the NPS.