The Doctor Can See You (Right) Now

Patients have unfortunately come to expect long waits for a doctor appointment. On the national average, it takes about 20 days to get into a physician’s office, depending on specialty. Enter, a website and app (available for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry) that launched locally this month. The site uses a little insider secret to help patients get to doctors quicker, while also improving physicians’ bottom lines.

ZocDoc spokesperson Jessica Aptman says about 10 to 20 percent of doctor appointments are canceled. Those are revenue holes for doctors and missed opportunities for patients. It’s what ZocDoc officials refer to as the “hidden supply of medical appointments.”

On the surface, ZocDoc comes across as just another search portal. You can find a physician by area or specialty, and read his or her bio and some reviews. Yawn. You can also search by insurance carrier, but the online scheduling element is the real game-changer here.

The site is connected real-time to an office’s daily appointment calendar. Yes, some popular doctors show no immediate availability, but there are also plenty who could get you in right away. Most ZocDoc users get an appointment within 24 to 72 hours, the company says. The service is free to patients, and doctors pay a monthly fee to be listed on the site.

If you schedule and attend an appointment through ZocDoc, you can write a review afterward. Anonymous third-party reviews aren’t accepted, Aptman says, explaining that the company is angling hard for legitimate, verified input on providers.

The Las Vegas rollout only shows a few specialties now, including primary care, dentists and OB/GYNs. Aptman says the goal is to get to about 35. Creating alerts for smartphones or e-mail when an appointment is canceled also would be useful, and may come later. Currently, if there are no short-term appointments available for a particular doctor, users need to keep checking the site to find cancellations. ZocDoc is also testing an online medical-forms tool that houses general patient information that can be used by various offices, reducing the need to repeatedly fill out the same types of forms for each doctor’s office.

After its 2007 New York launch, ZocDoc spread to other major cities such as Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and Philadelphia. Las Vegas is its 33rd market. The site sees about 2 million monthly users, and Time put ZocDoc on its “50 Best Websites” list in September.

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