Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Building relationships one referral at a time

I was in a dental practice recently and the topic of marketing came up. One of the team members I was training was not only the hygienist in the office but also the doctor’s wife. She wasn’t as interested in learning how to document a perio charting in the computer as she was how to attract new patients. Even though marketing typically isn’t my specialty, she asked me point blank, “What do you think is the best way to get more new patients?” My answer was, “I believe internal marketing is your best way to attract new patients.” I have worked in the dental practice for more than 20 years and our best patients come from referrals from other patients. Next, she wanted to know how to reward patients for referring. I replied, “You live in a small community, so what about giving your referring patient a gift card from one of your local merchants? It is a win-win. You have a new patient in your chair, your referring patient has some money to spend, and your local merchant will be happy that the money is staying in the community. You might even get some referrals from the local merchant.”

These conversations led us to the amazing feature in Dentrix that allows your office to not only track referring sources and referring patients, but also the gratuities you give to your referrals. If you offer a gift card to the local spa or hardware store down the street, you can document in the patient’s record the date it was given, the type of gift card, and the dollar amount. This will provide you with a comprehensive report of your most frequent referring patients. This will also work with referring doctors. If you are a specialty office and you rely heavily on other dentists referring to you for treatment, it is extremely important for you to acknowledge and thank those offices. At the end of the year when you are preparing your gift baskets, you can easily see which of your referring dentists will be receiving a box of goodies.

Tracking this information is very simple to do and it just takes a couple of clicks to enter this information into the patient record. When you are entering in the new patient information into the Family File, double click on the Refer From box. Next, click on the Refer To button and select if this patient was referred by a patient or Doctor/Other. After you have entered the referring source, click on the Analysis button and this opens the Gratuity details for this referring source. You can now enter a new gratuity, view the analysis history, or send this referring source an e-mail. One of the coolest features of this analysis is that it will put a note on the Office Journal for you (you all know how much I love the Office Journal).

Whether you are a specialty office or a general practice, this is a great way for you and your team to not only track your referrals but how often and how much you are rewarding them. This is another one of the nonverbal ways in Dentrix to communicate as a team and help build the relationships between our patients and referring doctors.

Dayna Johnson, Certified Dentrix Trainer
Dayna loves her work. She has over 25 years of experience in the dental industry, and she’s passionate about building efficient, consistent, and secure practice management systems. Dayna knows that your entire day revolves around your practice management software—the better you learn to use it, the more productive and stress-free your office will be. In 2016, Dayna founded Novonee ™, The Premier Dentrix Community, to help cultivate Dentrix super-users all over the country. Learn more from Dayna at and contact Dayna at


  1. Last continuing education class I attended said that this was illegal-gifting for referrals-so what is the truth?

  2. Check with your state and your mal-practice insurance company, but my understanding is that you cannot solicit or bribe a referral with gifts but it is okay to thank them. I think using gift cards as a "thank you" is a win-win for the referral and the local businesses.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Dayna, Gift cards to local businesses are nice, but those businesses don't reciprocate by sending patients to us. We recently found a company that creates prepaid debit cards with our own logo on them, and embossed with a custom thank you message from the dentist. Why not promote our OWN business? Our patients can use the cards wherever they want, which is an added bonus.

  3. Our doctor has always thanked our patients with a gift card or flowers and he writes his own thank you's to them. The wonderful generosity of our doctor is that he treats his staff the same way he does his patients. We also receive a gift card for our referrals. It is a shame that a patient will refer more people to an office than a staff member. When I generate a referral analysis it is always fun to see which staff member has referred the most patients and how much production that has created. :)