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Obtaining a National Provider Identifier

All nutrition and dietetics providers (registered dietitian nutritionists) and practitioners (e.g., nutrition and dietetic technicians, registered or students working as health coaches) should have an individual National Provider Identifier regardless of work environment, employment status, or whether claims are submitted to payers. The individual NPI is a unique 10-digit identification number that is assigned to an individual provider/practitioner forever; the individual NPI indicates the group(s) of providers/practitioners (taxonomy) one belongs, and can also be used to indicate some specializations within a provider type. NPIs are used in health care claims and are tied to provider notes in electronic health records. The individual NPI is an important mechanism for demonstrating a viable workforce of RDN and NDTRs to external stakeholders, including public and private payers.

NPIs are used increasingly to match providers to data. The NPI serves as a digital footprint that can enable better understanding of care provided, including specific nutrition interventions, RDN attribution to patient care, and the evaluation and reporting of outcomes and quality measures. Health care trends suggest that the use and application of the NPI will grow as a result of an acceleration in the virtual delivery of health care services, as well as other changes in health care delivery and payment.

Key Points About Individual NPIs

  • Individuals will only ever have one NPI number.
  • Individual NPI is also referred to as Type 1 NPI.
  • Individuals can select more than one taxonomy (provider type/practitioner type), if applicable.
  • Individuals should update the information to reflect accurate taxonomies (groups) and location (e.g., If an NDTR becomes an RDN, the individual keeps the same NPI, but would update the taxonomy to remove NDTR and add RDN).
  • NPIs can indicate specialization (see below).
  • NPIs are required for becoming credentialed with payers.
  • Individual NPIs can be tied to one or more tax identification numbers/employer identification number (EINs).
  • It is possible that an RDN or NDTR has an NPI and is unaware. An employer, such as a hospital, may have obtained it. Check the NPPES NPI Registry to see if you already have an NPI.
  • A Medicare NPI is not a separate NPI number. RDNs must obtain an individual NPI in order to apply to become a Medicare Provider.

NPI Taxonomy

The National Uniform Claim Committee reviews and approves requests for new NPI taxonomies and all change requests. Dietary and Nutritional Service is the overall group of individuals and providers that includes RDNs and NDTRs. The Health Care Provider Taxonomy Code Set lists the unique 10-character alpha numeric code that indicates specialization. Having an NPI that indicates your level of specialization identifies you to payers and other stakeholders and facilitates the evaluation of outcomes.

RDNs and NDTRs should review and update their information to reflect all taxonomies that correlate with their education and expertise. Specialist taxonomies are available for selection for RDNs who have obtained Commission on Dietetic Registration Board Certification as a Specialist in the following:

  • Pediatric
  • Renal
  • Gerontological
  • Pediatric Critical Care
  • Oncology Nutrition
  • Sports Dietetics
  • Obesity and Weight Management
  • Metabolic

Obtain an Individual (Type 1) National Provider Identifier Number

  • Confirm that you do not already have an NPI. If you have had any name changes, make sure to search any previous names used professionally.
  • Applications are accepted by either regular mail or online via the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) website. Online applications are quick and NPI are assigned within several business days, Mail-in applications may take up to 60 days to process the application.
  • The National Plan and Provider Enumeration System website will ask you to set up a username and password. This same username and password can also be used if you apply to become a Medicare provider via the PECOS website. Note: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services encourage applying for an NPI online. Applications submitted online take about 45 days to process; mail-in applications 60 days.

Organizational NPI (Type 2)

An Organization NPI (Type 2) is for group practices. If you are considering forming a group practice, you will need to obtain an organizational NPI in addition to an individual NPI.

Employee Identification Number

Those who are creating their own business, (i.e. group private practice, corporation or other business) should consider obtaining a separate tax identification number (TIN) for their practice or business.
An employer identification number (EIN) or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) is a TIN and the EIN is the corporate equivalent to a Social Security number. It is used when filing taxes for your business to protect your Social Security number from being disclosed on W-2s and in transactions, such as claims sent to health plans. If you are part of a group or organization, the group will already have an EIN.
Additional information about the EIN application process or applying for an EIN online  can be found on the IRS website.

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