COVID-19 is changing the face of healthcare, and nowhere is that more evident than the way people are interacting with their medical providers. With the choice between a waiting room full of potentially-infected patients coughing coronavirus into each other’s faces and a video-conference appointment conducted from the comfort of their own homes, both clinicians and their patients are opting for virtual care.
Online medical appointment booking provider Zocdoc recently added telehealth capabilities to its platform, and the response from its healthcare customers has been overwhelming. The firm stated that over 3,500 of its customers have signed up for the digital offering, and 350,000 virtual appointments across 50 medical specialties have been registered in a little over a week. Telemedicine has been around for a few years but problems with provider reimbursement and limited patient access to the service has created barriers that were difficult to overcome. COVID-19 has removed most of these obstacles.
Zocdoc is one of many tech firms eager to embrace the digital equivalent to the personal touch. More than 20 percent of its bookings are now online appointments, while 30 percent of the video conference reservations are with first-time Zocdoc users. The platform is taking bookings for concerns ranging from allergies, anxiety, ear infections, and dental emergencies. This technology allows for the handling of patient concerns that otherwise take up clinician time and resources desperately needed during this pandemic.
The firm also struck strategic partnerships with other telehealth services to support patients searching for as-needed or scheduled medical care. They have joined with NewYork-Presbyterian and Houston Methodist to offer these additional resources to their clients. “Surfacing America’s hidden supply of care has always been at Zocdoc’s core, and now we’re helping patients find and book with providers who are keeping their digital doors open,” said Oliver Kharraz, Zocdoc’s founder and CEO.
“As a neutral marketplace, Zocdoc is uniquely positioned to integrate the nation’s virtual care capacity and make it discoverable and bookable for patients all in one place,” he added. Looking beyond the current public health crisis, I believe these new modes of care are here to stay.”
Other health-tech startups are building out their capabilities to accommodate the sudden need for virtual care. New York-based Pager is augmenting its offerings with an artificial intelligence enhanced tool to help with COVID-19 triaging and risk assessment. The “white label” triage system can be rolled out within a few short days and used by health plans to identify users likely to be infected with COVID-19. The solution will then point them in the right direction for treatment.
While the expansion in virtual care offerings was always part of the plan, COVID-19 has created an urgent need for services that Zocdoc could address. The firm’s new telehealth appointment options might have come about in response to the pandemic, but they were always thought of as the next phase of efficient care and are now here to stay.