Unit 4: Administrative Operations
Administrative Operations

Section 2. Human Resources

National Practitioner Data Bank

The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) serves as a flagging system and facilitates a comprehensive review of professional credentials. Dental assistants and hygienists are not included in the NPDB. Information from adverse licensure actions, clinical privilege actions, professional society membership actions, and malpractice verdicts is collected from and disseminated to eligible entities.

A 24-hour NPDB help line (1-800-767-6732) is available with recordings on common topics and NPDB developments; an information specialist is available to answer specific questions during regular business hours (Eastern Time).

The NPDB was established through the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986 (Title IV of P.L. 99-660). Implementation of the NPDB was the responsibility of the Bureau of Health Professions, a bureau of HRSA of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The intent of the law was to improve the quality of health care by encouraging hospitals, state licensing boards, professional societies, and other health care organizations to identify and discipline health professionals who engage in unprofessional behavior and to restrict the ability of incompetent health professionals to move from state to state without disclosure of his or her incompetent or damaging actions. It also enhanced the peer-review process by protecting the records of organized peer review from legal discovery in malpractice actions. This provision was intended to allow members of a peer-review committee to discuss quality-of care-issues openly and freely without the fear that their discussions would be used against them in legal actions.

NPDB data are confidential and are disclosed only according to NPDB regulations, although some members of Congress have recently expressed interest in making the information in the NPDB available to the public. Failure to maintain confidentiality can result in a substantial civil monetary penalty (up to $10,000). Individuals and organizations that knowingly and willfully report to or query NPDB under false pretenses or fraudulently access NPDB computers are subject to criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

Medical malpractice payers, hospitals, professional societies, and state medical and dental boards must promptly submit reports to NPDB whenever payments are made or reports are received for a health professional. Sanctions are present for entities that fail to report to NPDB.

Learn more in the NPDB Guidebook.