• Physicians have several numbers associated with their career
  • Medical license numbers and their NPI are often requested
  • Professional photograph is also handy

No matter their scope of practice, physicians have several license numbers, registration numbers, and a variety of other credentials which they may need to verify their qualifications to do their job.

Each number has an important, specific purpose. Here is a list of the top five numbers physicians always need to know, along with other helpful information:

The National Provider Identifier (NPI) is an Administrative Simplification Standard that is part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The NPI is a unique identification number for covered health care providers. The NPI number is associated with individual physicians, including both solo and group practices and teaching hospitals, and is independent of records maintained by state licensing organizations and representing specialty boards.

Why it is important to know: Covered health care providers and all health plans and health care clearinghouses must use the NPIs in the administrative and financial transactions adopted under HIPAA. The NPI is a 10-position, intelligence-free numeric identifier (10-digit number). This means that the numbers do not carry other information about health care providers, such as the state in which they live or their medical specialty. The NPI must be used in lieu of legacy provider identifiers in the HIPAA standards transactions. Covered providers must also share their NPI with other providers, health plans, clearinghouses, and any entity that may need it for billing purposes.

This number is separate from a healthcare provider’s NPI number. Licenses are not granted automatically to all people with medical degrees. A medical school graduate must receive a license to practice medicine to legally be called a physician and often requires testing by a medical board. An active medical license is required for every state in  which you are practicing or intend to practice medicine. Most medical licenses need to be renewed every 1 to 2 years. Along with your NPI number, you must be able to know (or easily obtain) your medical license number if it is ever requested.

Why it is important to know: Your medical license number is another method of verifying your ability to practice medicine. Additionally, if you plan to practice medicine in another state, previous medical license numbers may be requested.

Your DEA registration is required if you are in a specialty and practice where you or another health care professional is administering or prescribing narcotic medications. The DEA license must be renewed every three years.

Why It is Important to Know: The most obvious importance is of course for your ability to prescribe the medication your patients need. However, it should also be noted that there is no legal basis for preventing its use as a general prescriber identification number. As a health care professional this number serves as a mechanism to perform one of your job responsibilities yet can also be an identifier, similar to the NPI. For security reasons, the DEA prefers that DEA registration numbers only be used for authenticating and tracking prescriptions for controlled substances and your NPI be used for general identification purposes.

Medical facilities will often request information about your current malpractice insurance coverage. This is especially true if you are working at a hospital or other facility that does not provide you with malpractice coverage.

Why It is Important to Know: Insurers usually look at the frequency and severity of any claims over the last five to 10 years of practice. Some of the most important information to have on-hand includes your certificate number first and foremost, practice location, dates of coverage, and any retroactive date of application for malpractice insurance coverage.

Generally, a driver’s license number is the most preferable number to have for a healthcare facility. However, a passport or other government-issued identification number is an acceptable alternative if you do not have a driver’s license. In either case, an identifying number associated with one of the three is always requested by health care facilities and you should be able to easily access one of these numbers at any given point in time.

Why It is Important to Know: While your NPI number, medical license number, and DEA registration number each have their own important and respective purpose, you still need a standard, separate number issued by a state or federal agency for identification purposes. This number can serve as the end-all-questions answer to verify your identity.

Other Helpful Information:

Peer Reviews and References: It is helpful to have the contact information of colleagues within your specialty that you can refer to for thorough and timely recommendations. Valuable peer reviews can come from residency directors, colleagues you worked with in recent years, as well as other clinical mentors. They are often requested when applying to work at a facility, by credentialing committees, and at all stages of your career if a facility should ever need to identify and resolve inappropriate clinical performance and medical errors. Peer reviews and references increase patient safety and overall quality of patient care.

Patient Reviews: Patient reviews are equally as important, and in some cases seen as more important, than reviews from your peers. Your ability to practice medicine can be confirmed through your education and training, and further certified by those who work in the same industry as you—yet your commitment to patient care and the many skills a physician needs that cannot be taught in medical school are verified by patient reviews. If prospective, or even current patients may have any doubts about your ability to provide them with the care they need, patient reviews can put their fears at ease. They are testimonials from other people who are or have been in their shoes, and carry more weight than any awards, certifications, or professional feedback from your colleagues.

Professional photograph: A professional photograph is one of those items that many people do not think about until it is asked for, and then providing one can be difficult. Taking a selfie or finding a recent photograph of yourself on your phone won’t work. The photograph should follow many of the same guidelines as one used for a passport:

  1. A color photo taken within the last six months
  2. Your face must be clear, in-focus, with no filters
  3. Someone else should take the photograph
  4. Remove any eyeglasses or face coverings your eyeglasses
  5. Use a plain white or off-white background

A professional photograph is often requested by medical facilities to present your application during routine meetings with other hospital staff members and is further proof of your identity. Having continuous and easy access to a professional photograph is crucial for anyone working in the health care industry. Aside from presentations and identification purposes, a professional photograph is used for workplace ID badges, marketing collateral for your facility, self-branding and portfolio representation, Email signatures, and various other day-to-day workplace activities.

Vigil: The Essential App for the Healthcare Professional:

Vigil is an app designed for the healthcare professional to take command of their career by having all of their tools at their fingertips. Vigil allows for a healthcare provider to have easy and secure access to all of their credentials to prove their ability to practice medicine with a digital badge—including a professional photograph, state medical license number, NPI number, DEA license registration number, and more. Vigil also serves as a centralized repository to compile patient and peer reviews for additional validation of a healthcare professional’s reputation.

Harness the power of your NPI and get started today! Learn more about Vigil at

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