Today marks Zocdoc’s 10th birthday, and a decade of working towards our mission to give power to the patient. Since day one, we’ve been working toward creating change, while navigating the daunting nature of healthcare and the impact it has on all of our lives.
I started my career as a physician, focused on impacting individual lives – alleviating pain, providing comfort after a cancer diagnosis, and sometimes providing life-saving care. But there are problems in healthcare so large and entrenched that they can only be solved with fundamentally new ways of thinking. So ten years ago, I set my sights on developing new solutions that could create change at scale.
I knew that we could use technology to make a tremendous structural change in healthcare, one that could solve problems for patients, providers, and payors alike, instead of creating winners at the expense of others in the system.
We’ve all been patients. And unfortunately, while digital technology has made so many things easier (happy 10th birthday to the iPhone too!), the patient experience in this country hasn’t changed much for decades. Out-of date information, long wait times, and antiquated systems are the norm, creating a lot of work for patients who are simply looking for quality care.
As patients, we should expect more. The Zocdoc platform is transforming how people access and interact with the healthcare system. With Zocdoc, patients can see doctors’ open appointment times and book instantly online, make informed choices with verified reviews, and stay on top of important checkups with tailored reminders. Today, millions of people use Zocdoc each month for timely access to the care they need.
That’s why I was dismayed to recently learn that wait times across the country are – frankly – bad, and getting worse. According to a new report from Merritt Hawkins, the 2017 national average wait time for a physician appointment is 24.1 days – a 30% increase from 18.5 days in 2014. At the same time, deductibles are growing, costs are going up, networks are narrowing and there are fewer choices, all of which hurts patients. Many people are going to the doctor less, putting off their check-ups and skipping routine procedures. This can lead to more unnecessary ER visits, and ultimately, higher costs, worse health outcomes, and increasing the strain on the system.
On the flip side, on Zocdoc, the most common type of appointment booking is within 24 hours from the time of the search.
How is this possible? For each search, our technology aggregates the availability of hundreds of local doctors in real-time, and patients can book on the spot, without waiting on hold. Zocdoc’s platform also surfaces all of the near-term availability that a doctor has, including last-minute cancellations or reschedules, which would otherwise have gone to waste.
Our data science team recently took a deep dive into the numbers behind access and wait time, which you can read in a new research report. Here are some of the highlights:
Looking by calendar days, in addition to the 24-hour timeframe mentioned above, we can see that almost 40% of users looking for new patients appointments in Q2 2017 were booking time to see a doctor within the next three calendar days – and 11% booked for the same calendar day (Figure 1). But not everyone wants to book an appointment so soon. Zocdoc works because we help the patient choose what is best for them, whether that’s today or two weeks from now, without fumbling through scheduling tetris during a phone call.
Using the Merritt Hawkins data as a benchmark, we can also see that in each of the 15 major markets they analyzed, new patient wait time on Zocdoc is significantly shorter (Figure 2). Across Zocdoc appointments in Q2 2017, a new patient had an average wait time of 7.6 days.
In Boston, the market with the longest wait time, new patients on Zocdoc waited a quarter of the time, as compared to the benchmark (13.6 days versus 52.4 days). The lesson? Patients don’t want to wait to see a doctor – and they shouldn’t have to. The Zocdoc marketplace uses powerful patients-first technology to transform access.
While much of the industry has been mired in uncertainty and debate this year, using technology to make better use of our hidden supply of care is a goal that everyone can rally around. Patients want faster healthcare access. Doctors want to see more patients. Insurers want their members to have better access to preventive care. Hospitals want fewer unnecessary patients crowding their emergency departments, and the system as a whole wants to bring healthcare costs down. This list goes on; the point is that healthcare efficiency benefits everyone.
When Zocdoc began, we put patients’ needs at the center of our product innovation and development. This hasn’t changed: from the couple who used Zocdoc to make a last minute appointment that became a life-changing diagnosis, to the deaf patients who don’t need someone to make a phone call on their behalf, to the young adults living on their own for the first time, learning how to navigate their own care.
While Zocdoc has surpassed my expectations over the past decade, we’ve only just scratched the surface of what is possible. There is still so much more we can do to bring healthcare into the modern era and help providers deliver the seamless experience patients expect and deserve.
I’m extremely proud of the ways we’ve been able to improve the industry by thinking deeply about patient problems and building the tools and technology to solve them, but I believe the greatest days for this company are yet to come. The next decade has incredible potential, and as the healthcare industry continues to evolve, so will we.