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The best ways to create new dental patient referrals

Jan. 24, 2017
There should be an office-wide system to how your dental staff approaches referrals. It will become second nature to ask patients their opinion, and if it's positive, ask for that all-important new patient referral.

There should be an office-wide system to how your dental staff approaches referrals. It will become second nature to ask patients their opinion, and if it's positive, ask for that all-important new patient referral.

Dental consultants universally agree that patient referrals are the best source of new patients for any dental office. Encouraging patients to refer their friends and family should be a part of your office routine. Even though “everyone knows” they should be asking patients for referrals, it is rarely done on a consistent basis.

Accountability—Assign this program to a specific employee so there is accountability.

Referral cards
• Have at least 1,000 referral cards printed that offer new patients $50 off dental treatment. If you don’t already have a printing company, Google “dental office referral cards,” where you will find many vendors to choose from. (Note: See “Important” section below.)
• Create a letter to hand out to current patients that explains how the program works. It is best that the letter be written by you or someone in your office so that it is unique and personalized.
• Optional: Send the letter to your entire patient base with five referral cards to jump-start the program.

Quality control survey
• Create a quality control survey similar to the one below.
• When patients complete treatment, ask them the questions on the quality control survey. If they’re happy with their service, explain the referral program. Give them the explanation letter and five cards.
• Keep a daily log of how many cards are handed out to track the effectiveness of the program.
• Include a couple of referral cards in letters that go out with statements.
• Always send a thank you note to any patient that refers a new patient. Include a couple of referral cards.

• Rewarding a patient or person who refers a new patient is forbidden in most if not all states.
• Deduct the $50 new-patient credit from the patient portion. When submitting insurance, include a note on how much and why you discounted the co-pay.
• Example: The new patient needs a crown and the patient portion is $3000. You deduct the credit from the patient's portion.
• You should still submit your agreed upon fee to the insurance company.
• You can't offer new patient credits to Medicaid or Medicare patients due to federal regulations.

Increasing referrals depends on getting referral cards into the hands of your patients on a daily basis so they can in turn give them to friends and family.

Like it or not, dealing with unpleasant situations part of being dentist/boss
Dental practices should enforce no nonsense financial arrangement policies

Quality control survey

Information: Use this form for every patient that completes treatment with the doctor or hygienist. If the patient had a negative experience you should attempt to resolve the problem immediately if possible. If you need to get more information before acting, tell the patient you will be calling him or her within 24 hours to resolve the situation.

Inform the patient: When patients complete treatment in our office we do a quick quality control survey to ensure their satisfaction with your service.


1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your experience at our office?
2. Is there some way we can change our office that would make your visits even more enjoyable?
3. Did you have to wait an excessive amount of time before being seen?
4. Were finances explained, and was your bill exactly what you expected?
5. Were you treated courteously throughout the office?
6. Based on your experiences, would you refer friends and family to our office? (If the answer is yes, explain the patient referral program. If no, make every attempt to resolve the problem within the guidelines of the office procedures and policies.)

Kevin Tighe, Cambridge Dental Consultants CEO, got bitten hard by the business and marketing bug during long summer days working at his dad's Madison Avenue ad agency. After joining Cambridge as a seminarist in the mid-1990s, Kevin went on to become Cambridge’s senior consultant and eventually CEO. Cambridge Dental Consultants is a full-service dental practice management company offering customized dental office manuals. Frustrated? High overhead? Schedule a chat with Kevin at [email protected].

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