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The Basics of How to Track and Maximize Dental Patient Referral Data

May 11, 2022

“It’s not what you know but who you know.” Applying that idea has much to do with how to track and maximize dental patient referral data.

The “who” factor (as in “who” referred them) for patients of record can be a useful source for ongoing engagement. It builds on the broader know-like-trust factor that drives quality relationships – especially for service providers.

Word-of-mouth still matters

A 2018 prediction by Sikka Software indicated that patient referral numbers are on the rise across the United States. Data from more than 13,000 dental practices reviewed over a seven year span reveals a steady increase in the average number of patients in a practice who were referred by someone else.

40.75 in 2010 to 54.17 in 2016 1

The good news is that you have the ability to track those referral sources. Check your dental practice management platform and/or connected dental dashboard.

Hopefully, report runs can be set up to include referral sources. Those sources can give you insight into a patent’s journey to your practice.

  • Referral data refines your marketing strategies
  • Referral data reflects the impact of your patient experience
  • Referral data reminds patients that their relationship with your practice matters

The basics of how to track and maximize your dental patient referral data

Everyone starts somewhere

Why do you eat at a particular restaurant, purchase from a store or online merchant, listen to a podcast or musician? It’s possible that someone gave you a heads-up!

The referral principle applies across the board. We trust those we know and like.

It’s likely that a high percentage of your patient database is traceable to another human. Sure, some contact your office or schedule as result of a mailer, an online ad, social media, or another form of online content.

Even so, it’s to your advantage to know the referral source for your patients.

  • Ask – make “how did you hear about us” a standard talking point for new patient interactions.
  • Explore – go deeper to understand what “tipped” a patient in the direction of your practice.
  • Expect – create a recurring loop of referrals by incentivizing patients to share-the-love about your practice.

Eliminate the ambiguity

It’s true everyone starts somewhere. But “somewhere” isn’t listed on a “map.”

You’ll want to discover the specifics about a patient’s referral journey. For example, saying they found you “online” is helpful to your marketing strategy.

But even more useful going forward is unpacking “where” online. Was it Facebook? Instagram? A Google search? A relevant blog post on your website?

  • Be more intentional with your online presence. Research how Google and social media platforms can provide useful tracking data.
  • Keep a patient by patient record of their online connection with your practice. This helps you refine your online marketing-spend and related ROI.

Engage with patients who actively refer

A goal is to have more patients who refer others than those who don’t. Build your tribe of referral sources by staying engaged with them.



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  • Drop them a simple (HIPAA compliant) “thank-you.” often.
  • Give them complimentary rewards such as cards to coffee shops, local restaurants, etc. Know your local and state laws regarding referral rewards before doing so.

Explore your routine reports

Available data can reveal any “holes” in your referral tracking. You might have a patient on record but not have an identifiable referral source attached to them.

  • Make course corrections going forward to assure that every patient is sourced somewhere (e.g. a personal, online, etc referral).
  • Train your front-office and/or scheduling team how to ask for referral sources and how to ask patients to refer others.
  • Keep all referral themed conversations with patients natural and sounding non-scripted (this is where training ahead of time pays off).

Envision better marketing based on referral data

Your patient referral information can help take the guess-work out of some dental marketing initiatives. Rather than random perspectives on patient personas, social media channels, and online strategies you can be more targeted.

  • Ask for referral specifics (e.g. what social media platform, blog topic, search question, mailer theme, etc.?).
  • Create marketing around referral demographics – family-based referrals, age/lifestyle-based referrals, etc.

Employ your dental practice management software

Your chosen software solution can provide a wealth of data about patient referrals. Focus on treatment acceptance, timing between an initial referral and first visit, and the appointment frequencies of the referral source, etc.

Some extracted data might seem too micro but you might discover some worthwhile “nuggets” using your software’s capabilities.

Review the following resources to improve your dental patient referral strategies:

Cultivate Relationships and Be Rewarded with Referrals from Your Dental Patients

Create Long-term Relationships with Data-Driven Dental Patient Communication

Use data-driven tools to support your referral system

The Jarvis Analytics platform helps assure that you’re tracking the important metrics and staying consistent with referral sources.

Jarvis…

  • Integrates seamlessly with your chosen practice management software/platform
  • Presents the metrics you want and need in an easy-to-view dental dashboard that reduces data complexity for growing dental practices, dental groups, and DSOs

Experience Jarvis in action. Request a demo today!

Or…

Contact us for more information about data tracking that leads to profitability