Zocdoc's new integration with Elation Health's EHR expected to decrease wait times, increase timely care

Up until recently, patients could search for providers on Zocdoc, check to see if that provider takes their insurance and then book an appointment. But there was one crucial gap in Elation Health's EHR—often scheduled appointments were not automatically input into a provider’s schedule.

Through a new partnership with Elation, that is changing.

For providers who use Elation Health's electronic health record, their schedules are now seamlessly connected with the Zocdoc platform to decrease tedious work for office staff and allow for real-time additions of appointments on the online marketplace to optimize scheduling. Providers who use the Elation EHR system can now integrate their calendars with Zocdoc to automatically populate appointment availability.

“We know that the provider segment Elation serves, independent primary care practices, is already overburdened with many administrative tasks, from scheduling to insurance verification, from patient intake to insurance claims and more,” Oliver Kharraz, M.D., CEO and founder of Zocdoc, told Fierce Healthcare. “We also know that their expertise is in caring for patients, not in being digital marketers. This partnership makes it easy for PCPs to reach new patients, fill their calendars and ultimately grow, thrive and maintain their independence.”

Zocdoc currently connects patients to providers in over 250 specialties covered by more than 18,000 insurance plans. As patients book an appointment with a provider who uses Elation, Zocdoc Calendar Integrations adds the appointment to the provider’s schedule.

Kharraz pointed out that unlike other industries, such as travel, healthcare lacks a central back-end scheduling system, resulting in no aggregated healthcare appointment inventory in a central location.

Zocdoc boasts over 150 integrations to date, including companies like athenahealth, Allscripts and Epic. The company claims that its integrations increase practice efficiency, surface hidden inventory and open doors for scheduling interoperability.

Kyna Fong, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Elation, said that the new integration means that day-of cancelations can be filled through the marketplace, not only filling provider’s schedules but also giving patients more options for appointments, offering a notable advantage in snatching up coveted first-time appointments.

“When you talk about alleviating provider burden, a big part of why we care about that is because it allows them to then focus on patients,” Fong said. “That underlying motivation throughout healthcare sometimes gets lost, but ultimately, it's about taking care of patients. So, I think there are huge patient benefits from this partnership.”

Wait times for patients have steadily increased since 2004 when the Merritt Hawkins Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times first began measuring the metric.

In the group’s 2022 survey, new patient appointments had people twiddling their thumbs for an average 26 days. Since 2004, wait times have increased by 24%. Delays in healthcare are believed to increase worsening health conditions, delayed diagnoses and earlier deaths.

While the average wait time for family medicine appointments has decreased from a peak in 2017 with a wait time of 29.3 days, down to 20.6 in 2022, younger adults seem less likely to access primary care. Of adults ages 18 to 29, 45% reported not having a primary care physician. Merritt Hawkins found that more patients are relying on novel forms of care like retail clinics and telemedicine.

“So many providers get frustrated when they see a patient too late,” Fong said. “It's not a great experience for the patient and potentially puts the patient in a worse health position than they could have been in if they were able to access care in a timely manner. It just creates more strain and more need, for example, for the PCP to coordinate a referral or coordinate labs or whatever it is that kind of delay in care can create.”

Wait times for obstetrician-gynecologists reached an alarming 31.4 days on average, with that number increasing to 59 days in Philadelphia. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported in 2017 that half of U.S. counties lack a single OB-GYN provider. The current shortage of providers is estimated at 8,000 and is expected to rise to 22,000 by the middle of the century.

Cervical cancer was one of the deadliest cancers for women before pap smears became a routine part of American healthcare. Now, research has proven that 93% of cervical cancer occurrences are preventable, according to the CDC.

When California’s COVID-19 stay-at-home orders went into effect, cervical cancer screenings dropped 80% in the Kaiser Permanente regional network, triggering fears of a spike in future cancers. Preventable screenings for other cancers like rectal and breast also decreased during the pandemic. The decrease in screening also poses a warning as wait times continue to increase.

“We know that barriers to access lead to emergency room overutilization, where treatment can be 12 times more expensive than care in an ambulatory setting, or they lead to people delaying or forgoing care entirely, exacerbating health outcomes and costs,” Kharraz said. “Removing the barriers to care, starting with making it easy for patients to easily find, book and quickly access in-network care, is a critical public health lever. Zocdoc’s mission to give power to the patient focuses squarely on this.”

Recently, Zocdoc continued to add specialties and providers to its platform in response to growing demand. In March, the company partnered with Zaya Care, a maternal healthcare marketplace, to bring its pregnancy and postpartum care specialists, including lactation specialists and pelvic floor therapists, to Zocdoc.

As the COVID Public Health Emergency came to an end, the platform expanded to cover appointment booking for federally qualified health centers with the goal of simplifying care for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

Most recently, urgent care centers were added to the Zocdoc marketplace. The Merritt Hawkins Survey found that patients who are unable to access primary care turn to urgent care centers, which have seen a meteoric rise in recent years