Zocdoc expands search, appointment booking for federally qualified health centers as PHE expiration nears

Zocdoc, the platform for booking doctor appointments, is opening up its marketplace to include more Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).

FQHCs, focused on underserved populations, can now list their facilities and real-time availability on the platform at a discounted rate. The option was initially piloted with FQHCs in New York, Texas and Michigan, where patients were already looking for the clinics on Zocdoc. 

The move is intended to help Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries that normally have to jump through hoops to book appointments, Oliver Kharraz, M.D., Zocdoc founder and CEO, told Fierce Healthcare. “This is an easier way that sort of shortcuts the system and saves you from having to play scheduling Tetris,” he said. “We want to do our part to make it easier for FQHCs to be on Zocdoc.” 

Patients wait an average of several weeks to see a physician. Medicaid patients face even more barriers than insured patients to get appointments. Faster access to care helps prevent worse outcomes and higher costs downstream. Zocdoc says through its service the typical appointment takes place within 24 to 72 hours of booking, including for Medicaid beneficiaries.  

Spring Branch Community Health Center in Texas is one of Zocdoc's FQHC pilot clients. "We know that access to care is one of the biggest barriers facing patients, and we decided to join Zocdoc to make our providers even more accessible to residents throughout our community," Michael Bsaibes, the clinic's chief operating officer, said in an announcement. "Zocdoc has helped us alleviate call center volumes and is expanding our access points to more patients as we look to bring on even more providers to serve our community."

Zocdoc has long served these patient populations, it says. In 2022, about 15% of its bookings were made by a federally funded beneficiary. That year, Zocdoc users booked in-network appointments using more than 1,200 various Medicaid and Medicare plans for care across more than 170 different specialties. Today, more than 85% of providers, excluding mental health, on Zocdoc accept Medicare or Medicaid.

As the public health emergency expires next month, millions of patients are expected to lose Medicaid. Even if the number of beneficiaries shrinks, uninsured patients will still need to access FQHCs, which provide services regardless of one’s ability to pay. “This is a sustained, huge need,” Kharraz noted. “It's part of our commitment to serving all patients, not just the well-to-do or the commercially insured.”