“Achoo? Find a doctor.” And if you want to make it even easier, find Zocdoc!
I am fascinated by the evolving healthcare industry, with new technologies and creative startups that are facilitating the diagnosis, treatment, and payment processes. I am working on this new column to keep everyone informed about the best, latest improvements in the healthcare industry. On everything from the “this is awesome!” to “this is terrible, why is it a thing,” I will review and describe my own experiences using the technologies and services that are emerging. Please note that I am not being paid for my reviews on these companies, and my individual, honest opinions are being expressed.
First on the list: Zocdoc!
Headquartered in New York City, Zocdoc was founded in April 2007 by Oliver Kharraz, a former McKinsey and Co. Associate Principal. He wanted to continue his family’s 300-year-old tradition of becoming a doctor and did just that—in Germany, but wanted to change the system to make it easier on everyone. If you watch some Youtube videos and research the company online, you will find that the name Cyrus Massoumi frequently comes up as the face of Zocdoc. To clarify, Cyrus was the co-founder of Zocdoc along with Oliver Kharraz. Late last year, Oliver took on the role as the primary CEO of Zocdoc as the company underwent a shift in management, followed by efforts to rebrand itself and start its next chapter as a rapidly expanding and evolving enterprise. As someone who had a stronger medical background, Oliver has led the company to a new path of continued success and patient-oriented services.
That’s quite a bit of backstory. What is Zocdoc though?
Zocdoc is an online platform through which patients can choose providers, book appointments, fill out check-in-forms, and complete mostly all of the other tasks involved in receiving any type of treatment. What I liked most right from the start about this website is that it is friendly and easy to navigate. The website has funny animations, a simple yet delightful design, and guides the user in the step-by-step process of securely booking an appointment with the desired provider.
Creating an account is easy. I entered my name, password, and phone number for a verification code so that I can get notifications about appointments on my phone. To begin, the user selects a category of providers. This list covers everything—chiropractors, surgeons, therapists, midwives, fortune tellers…just kidding on the last one!
Photo Credit: Flickr/Thomas Haynle
After choosing a provider category, one selects a zip code and the insurance that the user carries to search for providers who are covered by that insurance.
Once these selections are made, I was able to view all the providers in my chosen area, as well as buttons for open appointment times during the week. Under the doctors’ names are links to their Zocdoc profile, which includes patient reviews and their background information.
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The doctor profiles were incredibly useful to me because I, like most people, care about high-quality service. I have been treated by providers in the past who didn’t know how to properly draw blood, misdiagnosed me and gave me the wrong medication, etc. After getting the treatment, I would find out through others that the doctor had a reputation for being bad, but one wouldn’t know unless one asked around. And I don’t know how I would feel asking around about a good doctor for treating rashes on my lower back.
The patient reviews on the website, therefore, make it easy to both look over the quality of the doctor and book an appointment, all in one place. I wondered how these reviews were monitored to make sure they were not fraudulent or misleading, and that people actually remembered to write enough reviews to eliminate bias, so I reached out to Jaime Askew, who is a Zocdoc spokesperson.
“Zocdoc reviews are different than most,” Jaime informed me, “We use a closed-loop system, which means every comment is written by a patient who has actually seen the doctor. And because we ask for feedback after every single appointment that takes place, we generate a higher volume of reviews. This means not just extremely happy or unhappy outliers are leaving reviews, and it ensures patients see a lot of useful feedback – good, bad, and indifferent.”
Photo Credit: Flickr/Army Medicine
What about verifying the legitimacy of the doctors themselves? Zocdoc has taken care of that as well. It has a rigorous process of reviewing potential partnering providers by going through their licenses, ensuring that they are in “good standing with medical boards,” and that they meet several other requirements. The list is continuously updated as well.
Many users might be wondering about the privacy of the website (I know I was!). Jaime explained that Zocdoc uses a special data encryption system to keep users’ information safe. In fact, it is a system that closely resembles those used to secure customers’ information at banks. Also, the teams at Zocdoc are careful about the exchange of patient information and using the information themselves. She explains, “A Zocdoc team member can only view personal information if helping a patient directly or helping a healthcare provider with a booked appointment. Additionally, every team member at Zocdoc is HIPAA trained, because we want everyone – regardless of role – to remember that patient trust and protection are our highest priorities.”
For a full mindmap behind this article with articles, videos, and documents see #zocdoc
I tested out the website to book an appointment around my campus. I was surprised to find that there were no providers available in my area and wondered if there was a shortage of doctors, or if my campus had been hit by a plague. It turns out that neither were true: Zocdoc is still in the process of expanding to smaller cities and currently operates mostly in urban areas. However, it still serves millions of people and I have no doubt it will expand to less populated areas in the future.
I then tried out the website for general physicians around my neighborhood in Edison, NJ. Edison is a large suburban city and I found several open slots from providers from within a half mile. Booking was quick and painless: I selected a time, chose from a dropdown menu of reasons for my visit, confirmed my phone number, and I was done! I got an email immediately to verify that my appointment had been booked. Of course, since this was just a test and I did not actually have said illness, I was a bit worried about the ease of appointment cancellations but that was simple as well. On my homepage, I clicked on the box with my appointment information, selected the “down” arrow under the section titled “Upcoming Appointments”, and clicked “Cancel”.
I truly hope that more people learn about Zocdoc and use it because it is extremely useful and convenient. People have 24/7 access to it to book and edit appointments, fill out all the annoying paperwork online, and do a thorough background check on providers to make sure they know about the quality of service to expect.
-“Not only does Zocdoc’s free service make the appointment-booking process much easier, it also makes it much faster despite a nationwide doctor shortage. This shortage has contributed to a national average wait time to see a physician of nearly three weeks. The typical Zocdoc patient, however, sees a doctor within 24 hours. Zocdoc helps uncover the “hidden supply” of appointments in doctors’ calendars caused by cancellations, no-shows and shifting schedules – up to 25 percent of a doctor’s day.”- Jaime Askew
Photo Credit: Flickr/University of Exeter
The only thing I would change is that I would like it to expand to have a network that extends to smaller cities, rural areas, and eventually every country because we NEED this. After using this website, I thought about how much of a hassle it has been up to this point to get treatment. Getting sick or being unwell is enough of a hassle, and booking appointments with good providers should not add to it. I highly recommend Zocdoc and want it to keep growing. I hope you check it out, and maybe leave a comment below describing your experience!
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