Professional references (or peer recommendations) are an important step in the credentialing effort—they offer peers an opportunity to verify the clinical competency of a provider. They can provide valuable information that might otherwise be unavailable regarding an applicant. However, though they offer significant value, they are only effective when used appropriately and obtained from a suitable source.
We’ll cover the purpose of references, when and how they should be used, who is a suitable reference, and what should be included in a professional reference letter.
Peer recommendations provide detailed insight into a provider’s abilities, character, values, and skill level. It is one of the many ways that healthcare organizations can work to ensure they are able to provide the highest level of patient care. Accreditors and regulatory agencies all have varying requirements when it comes to peer references. The purpose of obtaining references is not only to verify a provider’s clinical competency, but to remain compliant with the standards of concerned organizations.
Individual states may have specific requirements for peer references contained in their hospital licensing regulations. That is why it is critical that you know what the hospital licensure requirements are in your state.
Depending on the organization, you may only need peer references for initial credentialing. Reapplicants may find that peer reviews via the organization’s routine review is enough, but that a clinical competence review is a requirement of recredentialing.
The number of professional references required depends on your hospital accreditor:
According to the Joint Commission, a peer reference is defined as “information submitted by a practitioner(s) in the same professional discipline as an applicant, reflecting his or her perception of the applicant's clinical practice, ability to work as part of a team, and ethical behavior; or the documented peer evaluation of practitioner-specific data collected from various sources for the purpose of evaluating current competence.”
Sources for peer recommendations may include:
Most regulatory and accreditation bodies have different requirements, as do individual states. That is why it’s vital to not only know what hospital licensure requirements are in your state, but for every accreditation body you work with. Our white paper [LINK] has more details.
Once again, each hospital will have varying requirements, but there should be a policy in place with regard to what should be included in a professional reference. We recommend:
We believe that having specific questions will help you evaluate candidates in all areas of competency and ensure you can compare candidates’ side by side. Your questions should ask about a candidate’s:
It is also recommended that professional references come directly from the source. If letters are accepted from the applicant, there is no guarantee the peer actually composed the letter. There are other requirements to consider, like if a recommendation has to come from a peer in the same clinical specialty, or what to do if no one in the same professional discipline can provide a professional reference. We have answers to all that and more.
We don’t have to tell you twice; credentialing providers takes a lot of effort. The good news is, CredentialStream allows applicants to list peer references during the online application process. Users can also add references to a provider's file under the references section, and can automate peer references as part of their primary source verification workflow process that will send peer references electronically through CredentialStream. For any questions, we’re here to help, simply reach out!