Medical Peer References: Best Practices and Advice

- August 17, 2016 -

Completing Peer References is arguably the most time-consuming task in provider credentialing. Once the reference request forms are mailed out, the collection process can take up to weeks, sometimes even months. Sometimes administrators don’t have much time to spare, so those instances can be stressful and harmful to the facility’s compliance.

We sat down with our Credentialing Specialist, Tracy Van Slyke, and picked her brain about her experience with managing Peer References. The interview sheds insight on the process and best practices from someone with 15 years of credentialing experience.


What are Peer References?

“Peer References are reviews of the provider’s skills and experience by the candidate's colleagues. They are used to evaluate the provider’s current competence during the application process. The standard requirement across most healthcare facilities is three professional peer references, but the number may vary based on each facility’s bylaws

The references must be written documentation that document the provider’s:

  • Medical/clinical knowledge
  • Technical and clinical skills
  • Clinical judgment
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • Professionalism”

Can you break out the process in steps?

The process is straightforward like the other document collections, but it’s a bit trickier since you’re dependent on other people to complete something and get it back to you:

1. Confirm that the provider’s peers are willing to submit a Peer Reference
2. Send out Peer Reference forms to the peers
3. Collect completed Peer References”


Who can submit a Peer Reference? How do you identify them?

“The providers should provide names and contact information in the Peer References section of the application. They should have given a heads up to the individuals listed as references. The written references are confidential, so providers should never get their hands on completed references.

They should be individuals who have worked with the provider within 2-3 years to keep the references as current as possible. two or all of the references are usually doctors who have worked with the applicant in the same specialty, but one can be other knowledgeable professionals. They can be supervisors, medical directors, or other individuals who have observed the applicant’s performance and can evaluate the six areas.”


  • Make sure that your facility’s application asks for one or two more names than what it requires in case a listed individual declines to complete a reference.
  • Clearly state what you need and give examples of who your facility will accept as a reference.


What does a Peer Reference look like?

“It generally looks like a questionnaire with close-ended and open-ended questions. The scaled questions may have 3-5 options for you to circle like ‘below average, average, and above average.’

The peers need to answer questions about their familiarity and relationship of the applicant like: How long have you known them? What have you seen them practice? What kinds of facilities have you seen them practice in?

The completed review must be signed and dated by the reference. They’ll also have an opportunity to leave any additional comments.”


  • Make sure the Peer Reference forms sent out meets all of the evaluation requirements
  • Use our standard Peer Reference template to get started


When should I start the Peer References process?

“I encourage every credential manager to begin soon as you can! Once you get the names in the application, start reaching and sending the forms to them immediately.

Starting early will give you a cushion when the peers take longer than expected to get them back to you. From my experience, it’s taken on average 2-4 weeks to receive the completed references back, but it can be pretty scattered. It’s the longest and probably the most frustrating process.”


  • Even if you have other credential documents to collect, start with Peer References and then get back to the other documents while you wait for the references to come in


What do you consider the most difficult part of the Peer References process?

“Receiving them back. I’ve dealt with the burden of peers who ended up unresponsive or were extremely slow to respond. In those cases, it helps to offer them multiple forms of communication instead of limiting it to just mailing by envelope.

Emailing and faxing allows the individual to send the completed reference back with less delay, but I recommend using a credentialing software that facilitates the Peer References process from the very beginning. It’s more secure and expedites the process.”


  • Make sure the peers know that they have multiple ways of getting the reference back to the facility.
  • Use a digital credentialing software that can expedite the whole process.


Silversheet lets you complete the Peer References process quickly and digitally with customizable questionnaire templates. It’s easy-to-use and reduces the delay. Request a demo with our team to see how the feature can help you speed up the Peer References process.

Our Peer References Template is free to download and use for your center's credentialing. Download, print, and send!