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How to Create a Data “Story” and Use It to Guide Patient Care and Dental Practice Growth

Mar 16, 2022

Data itself might not be compelling. What is (compelling) is what you discover within it and how you choose to use it.

The power and use of data is in its application. Mining your data is a consistent topic around here. For good reason.

On the surface your data can resemble what appears as lifeless bits of information. But when you extract the “story” behind its theme – that’s where the power resides.

What’s the “story” in your data and why does it matter?

In this context we’re talking more about following the “storyline” within your available patient data. That storyline helps you search the connections between their treatment history and overall connection to dental care.

Discoveries within data analytics help frame the story-based idea. It’s about “translating data” into insights that are relevant to patient care.

”Data stories are narratives that explain how and why data changes over time—often through visuals. But data storytelling isn’t just about making great charts and data presentations. It’s about communicating insights that deliver real value.”1

Your internal patient data-stories could be formed around three elements.

  • Patient data (e.g. their health and treatment history, care/chart notes, etc)
  • Images/visuals (e.g. before and after images, x-rays, charting/graphs, etc)
  • Case presentation and benefit narratives (e.g. related notes, flags, reviews, survey data, etc).

These provide the context you need for crafting the story around a patient’s treatment, upcoming appointment, and case presentations. Think of the story approach as a way to frame your data in practical terms for yourself, your team, and your patients.

”Knowing how to analyze and properly understand this data can provide valuable insights in not only the health and success of the dental practice, but also how to improve the level of patient care a practice can provide. Data mining can assist practices with everything from marketing and business strategies to determining which dental protocols are most effective—if the doctor knows how to analyze this information.”2

How to create a data “story” and use it to guide patient care and practice growth

Good stories have four common elements:

  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Conflict
  • Outcome

Data analysis becomes actionable and useful when you use these story elements as a frame.

Seek and establish the “plot”

The starting point revolves around whatever database you’re wanting to explore. Analysis could focus on demographics, patient acquisition, patient attrition, patient retention, case acceptance ratios, payment history, marketing ROI, and more.

The data plot follows the particular story you want to explore and use. It keeps you focused on the details relevant to the desired outcomes.



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  • Use and maximize your available data analytics tools (e.g. dental pms, dental dashboard, etc)
  • Listen to patient reviews (positive and negative), surveys, comments, etc.
  • Leverage patient communication data to enhance your perspective on post-analysis strategies.

Know your “characters”

In this context your characters are current and potential patients. Character development here aligns with understanding their personal “why.”

“Why” isn’t always as clear as the “what.” Data analytics helps you see present and emerging patterns in patient behavior.
A particular pattern could indicate why the patient accepted or denied treatment. This is where listening – personally and using data – pays off.

  • Review chart notes for personal data that could explain a patient declining treatment or no-showing.
  • Look for trends rather than isolated incidents in patient behavior.
  • Track patient trends that can improve your strategies around marketing, patient retention, and patient acquisition.

Embrace “conflict”

This isn’t about relational friction. it has more to do with facing your practice realities.

Your data story isn’t always rosy. Accepting rather than denying your practice realities enables you to strategize around performance issues.

What you track and acknowledge can be improved. That’s the power of data analysis.

  • Monitor and track KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
  • Evaluate production, collections, case acceptance, and the patient experience.
  • Look for gaps and blind-spots and follow the data to create solutions.

Envision the “outcome”

Think of the outcome as solutions. It’s about embracing the conflict or problems revealed in your patient data.

The outcome zone of your data analysis is where you commit to rolling-up-your-sleeves and solving relevant problems – in your practice, on your team, for your patients, in your care standards, etc.

  • Look for insights within KPIs, end-of-day reports, from your team, in patient communications, etc.
  • Use available data to uncover the root of the problem at hand.
  • Create actionable steps to provide a value-based outcome.
  • Stoke a proactive mindset (instead of a reactive mindset) within your practice, team(s), and patient interactions.

Data is a key driver of practice success. In its raw form it can appear lifeless or irrelevant. But there’s power when you approach it from a “story-based” perspective.

Sharpen your data “story telling” tools with the following resources:

Follow a Data Mining Primer to Maximize Your Available Dental Patient Data
Create Long-term Relationships with Data-Driven Dental Patient Communication

A good data “story” is discovered with effective analytic tools

The Jarvis Analytics platform helps assure that you’re tracking the important metrics and staying on-track with your goals as your dental practice and/or DSO grows and expands.

Experience Jarvis in action. Request a demo today!