By Sarah-Richelle Lemas, Doximity

Here’s a scary scenario: imagine picking up your cell phone to find a patient unexpectedly on the other end. Or imagine him or her standing on your front doorstep. While both of these situations may seem like unlikely, your personal information -- including cell phone and home address -- may be publicly available without you even realizing it.

Here’s what’s happening

Have you ever Googled your name to see what turns up? As a licensed physician, you will likely see websites that use public information from government sources, often the National Provider Index (NPI). The NPI is a unique ten digit number assigned to every health care provider by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). It is the required identifier for Medicare services and other payers, like commercial healthcare insurers. Once assigned, your NPI is permanent and remains with you regardless of job or location changes. Your NPI profile includes your name, office contact information, and specialty.

If your cell phone number or home address are showing up on various online directories and websites, it may be because it was listed as your primary contact information on NPI, instead of your office phone and address. Or perhaps someone else (such as a residency program coordinator) filled out your NPI profile on your behalf, and unintentionally used personal contact details. You may not have even realized that this information would be available publicly when you initially filled out your NPI application.

Many online directories use this public data from the NPI, so you need to be sure that your NPI profile contains the exact information you want patients to see.

So how do I fix this?

Having your personal information publicly available is a scary thought. But the good news is that you can control your online identity. The first step is to find out what may be out there.

1.Choose your contact information wisely. If you are a new resident and haven’t applied for an NPI yet, you may want to think twice before including your personal cell phone number -- because it might put your private information at risk. NPIs are usually distributed to graduating med students, so ask your residency program director about which number and address will make the most sense.

2.Be aware of what info is in your NPI profile. If you already have an NPI, you may not remember exactly what information you included. So visit the NPI registry to check out your profile. If you need to update anything, you can do it on the NPI website by creating an account.

3.Take a look at your Doximity profile. It is easy to update your contact information on your Doximity profile by selecting “edit” once you are logged in to your account. Just click here to log in to your profile. You decide what information is public, and which colleagues can see your private contact information. And if you have additional questions, you can always contact our friendly Support desk.

Protect your privacy

At Doximity, our goal is to make it easy for you to quickly connect with other medical professionals -- and help you take control of what personal information is visible to others. Managing your Doximity and NPI profiles is a good starting point to take charge of your digital footprint and make sure you aren’t unintentionally sharing more than you wanted.