ZocDoc to take doctor appointment booking nationwide by yearend

By Jonah Comstock
08:54 am

ZocDocWeb and mobile-based appointment booking service ZocDoc has announced plans to make its service available in all 48 contiguous states by the end of 2014. ZocDoc's free-to-patients service helps people find a provider or specialist in the first place, but it also helps them discreetly and efficiently make future appointments while avoiding the "Tetris game" of trying to coordinate their schedule with their doctor's over the phone.

"ZocDoc is nearly seven years old," the company's Chief Operating Officer Oliver Kharraz told MobiHealthNews. "For three years of that we were only in New York just to figure out the scheduling piece. And for the last four years we've been expanding to 40 percent of the country. We learned a lot of lessons. We're now very, very comfortable and the product is at this point so mature that we can actually go nationwide."

Kharraz said that scaling ZocDoc's service hasn't always been easy because some features -- for example, reaching out to patients and doctors in bad weather to make sure appointments are still on -- are easily implemented in a single city but more complex in many different locations.

"In general people always say 'this is just a booking website,'" he said. "But what it is is a lot of complexity. There are so many things that have to go right. We always talk about ZocDoc as a combination of a thousand 1 percent improvements."

In 2012, for instance, ZocDoc added a check-in function that allows the patient to create a personal health record in ZocDoc that they can then use to automatically fill out registration forms and patient history forms as they move from doctor to doctor. That service has seen 80 percent adoption among physician clients.

The company shared a number of growth numbers as well. ZocDoc now has 500 employees, a 100 percent increase from a year ago. Adoption of ZocDoc's mobile app has grown 500 percent year over year, according to the company. The service has 5 million patient users across 2,000 cities and towns in 35 states and can be used for 1,000 procedures -- in Kharraz's words "everything from acupuncture to circumcision".

ZocDoc's enterprise business has grown 200 percent, bringing ZocDoc into hospitals and health systems across 20 states.

"For many hospital clients, they tell us that we are the highest ROI initiative in the history of their organization and that's obviously happening by design," Kharraz said. "... Part of the reason we have been penetrating the hospitals so quickly is it is a great experience, both from a business perspective and from an expectation perspective. We had all this growth in parallel to all these CIOs being distracted by Meaningful Use, because it is such an easy project for them to do and it's such a high ROI for the business side."

Health systems and hospitals ZocDoc works with include BJC HealthCare, Hartford HealthCare, Main Line Health, Meridian Health, Sentara Healthcare, Adventist Health Partners, MedStar Health, Mount Sinai Health System, NYU Langone Medical Center, Steward Health Care System, Tenet Healthcare Corporation, and Western Connecticut Health Network.

On the booking side, Kharraz said he's not concerned about competition from payers like UnitedHealth Group, whose MyEasyBook software launched at CES this year. For one thing, he said, ZocDoc will present users with a wider range of options, a key point of differentiation. But he also said that consumers trust ZocDoc, whereas consumer trust in payers is typically very low.

"There's this element of people actually wanting to do business with you," he said. "So a reductionist approach of 'Can I book an appointment with a piece of technology' isn't really hitting home. It's like asking the question 'Can you can listen to music with your Microsoft Zune?' and people say 'What's a Microsoft Zune?' because no one even remembers that attempt anymore. It wasn't about being able to listen to music. It was about the whole package."


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