WASHINGTON (AP) _ The National Practitioner Data Bank, which tracks malpractice settlements and penalties meted out to physicians and other medical professionals, has gone almost all electronic.

It said Monday it was no longer accepting queries on paper from hospitals and managed-care organizations that review credentials.

Instead, they must submit their questions electronically by telephone and computer, or mail them in on computer diskettes.

The data bank, established in 1990, gets more than 2 million queries a year, mostly from managed-care organizations and hospitals.

Physicians, dentists, nurses, podiatrists and other practitioners make 40,000 requests for their own records, usually to find out with whom the information has been shared.

The public lacks access to the data bank.

The Health Resources and Services Administration said it is cutting fees for data requests from $6 to $3 per name if the request is made via computer and paid electronically by credit card or electronic transfer.

But it will charge an extra $3 per name if the queries are mailed in on diskette, and $4 more for payment by check or money order.

Thomas Croft, whose agency oversees the data bank, said that individual practitioners can still mail in requests on paper for their own information. ``We do those for free,'' he said.

The switch to all-electronic queries came as a new contractor, SRA Inc., took over operations of the data bank from Unisys Corp. SRA won a six-year, $12 million contract last year.

Croft said the data bank is not yet ready to accept electronic reports from malpractice insurers and others on payments and sanctions, but hopes to do so soon.