Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Appointment-Booking Site Gets Big Investments, Has Drawbacks

CNET recently reported some new information about a New York-based start-up called ZocDoc. ZocDoc is an online doctor and dentist appointment-booking site that allows consumers to schedule visits based on time, specialty, location, and insurance coverage—at not extra charge. ZocDoc is looking to expand its service area with a $15 million Series B venture round led by the Founders Fund along with
contributions from Khosla Ventures.

Currently, ZocDoc only services the New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Chicago metropolitan areas. The website is currently promoting a user vote to choose what their fifth city should be from different options including Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle and Los Angeles.

Expanding won’t be easy, however. The staff at ZocDoc will have to aggregate new doctors and advertisers, set up medical profiles that are customized to the existing search criteria and enable users to book appointments online. Considering this service is free for patients, positive feedback from doctors and advertisers is required to make the expansion a success.

ZocDoc’s ambitions have grabbed the attention of some big names in eCommerce. Their first round of investors included Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff as well as Bezos Expeditions—the firm run by CEO Jeff Bezos. Khosla Ventures, who is investing for their second time
around, is run by Sun Microsystems founder Vinod Khosla. Khosla has been focusing a lot of attention lately on health care and clean technology.

The Founders Fund is another heavy hitter, with its principals including PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Napster co-founder, as well as Facebook, Inc. president, Sean Parker.

ZocDoc certainly has its benefits: book appointments from home, see doctor reviews, weeding out doctors by insurance plans accepted. However, how will this affect the plastic surgery industry if ever implemented? The ease of online booking might supersede the importance of having the patient discuss with with a patient coordinator prior to an in-office consultation. Deciding to undergo plastic surgery is a very personal decision, and taking the first step by book a consultation online is not the ideal way to go about it.

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