New York start-up ZocDoc plans to expand its online booking service for doctor and dentist appointments to more cities with help from a $50 million Series C venture round from DST Global announced today.
DST Global, which has invested in Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, and Zynga, is also putting its money on ZocDoc, adding to the $20 million the company had previously received from Founders Fund and Khosla Ventures.
ZocDoc is adding about a city a month to its existing roster of urban markets, which include Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., ZocDoc co-founder and CEO Cyrus Massoumi told CNET last week before the funding round was announced. The plan, Massoumi added, is to roll out nationwide in the next 12 to 18 months.
In a move to attract more patients and broaden its digital reach, the company released a free app for Android phones last week. The iPhone app launched in January and now 7 percent of ZocDoc appointments are booked using it. Massoumi said he expects the Android app to do just as well.
Currently, about 700,000 patients use ZocDoc to find a doctor, but the company is adding about 1 million new available appointments every three months. Massoumi credits ZocDoc's growth largely to its straightforward business model, charging a flat fee of $250 per month per doctor. And users benefit by gaining better access to their providers, he noted in an interview at his company's Manhattan office.
Similar to OpenTable for restaurant reservations, ZocDoc offers a system that lets patients input the kind of doctor or dentist they want to see, their location, and what insurance they have. In return, they get a list of doctors and their availability--so at the touch of a button, a patient can book instantly. The service also includes photos of doctors' faces and blurbs about their practice. To be in the club, doctors are vetted and checked for verified credentials. Additionally, ZocDoc has a Yelp-like system, so patients can review the doctor's service.
While there are other doctor booking sites out there, those services tend to work by e-mailing the practice to complete bookings, rather than operating in real time like ZocDoc. DocMein, for example, is a free management system that sends out appointment notices between doctors and patients--and delivers reminders via e-mail. It's not a marketplace for appointments like ZocDoc, but rather a tech solution for doctors to optimize their own Web sites for online scheduling.
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"Too many companies are tempted by opportunity and try to do too many things. They often end up doing none of them well," Massoumi said.
ZocDoc got started in 2007 after Massoumi busted an eardrum while on a flight to New York. It took him three days to book an appointment. Frustrated by the old-fashion method of calling doctors to book appointments, Massoumi said, he created ZocDoc to make the process more transparent and efficient. Massoumi focused initially on the New York market. At times he doubted the business, he said, recalling the time when he was kicked out of three Manhattan dentists as he solicited ZocDoc's service. Those doctors, he said, albeit years later, are now signed up for ZocDoc.
"We were unsure about ZocDoc outside NYC only for the first two years. The success we experienced in Washington, D.C., when we launched there in 2009, and all of our subsequent markets across the United States have proven that the model works everywhere," Massoumi said. "Our doctors in Mesquite, Texas, are seeing lots of patients, so we know this service has a role to play in every town and city in the country."
Being relatively new to San Francisco, I decided to try ZocDoc's service out for myself.
I plugged in my location, the type of doctor I need, and my insurance provider. I got a list of doctors nearby and could see what times the doctors had availability for an appointment. Primary care doctor Stephanie Roberts was available at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, so I started the booking process on ZocDoc's iPhone app. However, when I gave Roberts' office a call, the receptionist told me that Roberts is taking the day off on Tuesday and is available on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. In response to this conflict, a ZocDoc representative assured me that sometimes doctors will forget to update their calendars with their actual availability. So, even though I booked an appointment for Tuesday, the doctor's office wouldn't have confirmed it and ZocDoc's service team would have contacted me to find a mutually convenient time to reschedule.
When Roberts wasn't available for Tuesday, I continued shopping for doctors. That's when I double-checked the ZocDoc reviews against the review of the doctors on Yelp. The doctors ZocDoc recommended got negative reviews on Yelp, making me not want to go to the top recommended ZocDoc doctors in my area. I asked ZocDoc about why the ZocDoc reviews didn't reflect the reviews I read on Yelp.
"With Yelp, anyone can review a doctor, this can lead to outliers so only patients with the best or worst experience proactively seek out Yelp and write a review," said ZocDoc spokeswoman Allison Braley. "Everyone who writes a review on ZocDoc is a patient we know has seen the doctor. We solicit reviews from patients in a follow-up e-mail. This tends to ensure a more balanced reviews system."
That said, I have yet to book an appointment, but I'll thumb through ZocDoc's recommendations next time I get the sniffles--and will probably check Yelp just to be sure the doctor I booked with is good enough.