Skip to Content

What is National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) Secretarial Review?

Medical lawyer cv for Daniel Horowitz

What is National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) “Secretarial Review”?

The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) is a sophisticated, computer driven machine that digests negative information from variety of sources and spits it out with government stamp and broad immunities to protect reporting persons and entities. The options to challenge a filing are few but NPDB “Secretarial Review” is one option.   

Few attacks against a physicians' license are more damning than an NPDB report.   Worse, a NPDB filing can be done without any government approval and it quickly triggers a cascade of consequences. Employers, hospitals, licensing boards, DEA, certification boards are all notified and disclosure is required on any future credentialing submissions. Additional investigations may then be launched, some may have little protection for the doctor.

Remember the old adage that a person shall “not be deprived of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness without due process of law”. Well to quote the various Mafia characters in movies, “Fuget about it”. Due process does not apply.

Secretarial Review of an NPDB filing provides the potential for relief under somewhat rare circumstances.  The relief may be partial but there is little or no downside to filing.

Steps for Secretarial Review

Secretarial review of an NPDB filing is an escalation of the dispute to the Secretary of HHS. This option has to be carefully tailored to the parameters of the review or it is waste of time. The steps to ask for this review are:

1. Dispute the Report

Disputing an NPDB report is a process and it has rules. Miss a rule and you miss your chance to “dispute”. The Data Bank has a website and you have to find the part that says “Respond to a Notification”. It takes you to a page where you enter the “Report Number” and “Password” (which they gave to you when you got the actual notice of the filing). A few more clicks and you get to enter a 4000 word or less dispute. You need to be careful not to limit your options when you enter this information and we recommend that an attorney assist you. Finally, you contact the entity that made the negative entry and try to convince them to fix their error.

2. Elevate the Report to Secretarial Review

If you don’t get resolution from the filing entity you can ask the Secretary to correct some aspects of the report. You go the same website and click on the same “Respond to a Notification”. The same Report Number and Password are entered. Then you click “Request Secretarial Review”. Then NOTHING HAPPENS!

Well it might but you can’t enter the request until 30 days after you have filed your dispute, then you get to fill out the new form.  (We get calls from time to time on this and in every instance this has been the problem and solution.)

This new form gets printed and filed with paper. It is not complete on the computer alone. The content and ability to obtain relief is limited. You relate in 20 pages or less what facts are in dispute. You should focus on whether the report is accurate (hard to win on this unless there is an indisputable error); report is incomplete (e.g. you were exonerated and they left that out or failed to update); timeliness and relevance (meaning it is not related to your medical practice or any reportable issue).

You have to show that you attempted in good faith to resolve the dispute and that you were unsuccessful.

The ultimate review by the Secretary determines whether:

1. The action reported is “reportable”.

2. Did the report contain sufficient information to accurately describe the reporting entities actions and reasons for action.

3. Are the disputed issues outside the purview of the Secretary so that review should
be by another entity or agency (e.g. a medical board adverse finding)

While Secretarial Review is a limited and often ineffective option, it is an option that in all NPDB cases should be considered. There is little downside to pursuing review. If you are the subject of an NPDB filing, our medical law experts can assist you.