Zocdoc: The types of providers, appointments most booked in 2023

Providers with more photos, reviews, languages or a hospital affiliation on Zocdoc were much more likely to have been booked in 2023 than their peers, according to a new retrospective report.

Zocdoc has published its 2023 What Patients Want report, looking back at trends in bookings and patient preferences from the past year. The online appointment scheduling platform has nearly 100,000 healthcare providers who collectively represent 250 specialties.

Providers with up to three office photos received nearly three times as many bookings on average as those without any, while those with four or more photos received nearly five times as many bookings. 

Those who listed two languages on their profile got nearly double as many bookings. Those who listed three or more got three times as many bookings. For every additional language beyond three, providers got an extra 20% more bookings. 

Patients strongly preferred providers with more than 50 reviews, with those receiving 11 times more bookings than providers with under 10 reviews. Those with more than 100 reviews got a whopping 30 times more bookings as those with under 10.

Zocdoc automatically solicits feedback for every appointment made through the platform after the visit is complete.

“On Zocdoc, you cannot come to our website and leave a review” without having visited the provider, Zocdoc founder and CEO Oliver Kharraz, M.D., told Fierce Healthcare. “Because of this system, which generates a higher volume of verified reviews, we believe Zocdoc reviews are much more representative than other platforms.”

Providers with a hospital affiliation noted on their profile received three times as many bookings on average compared to others in the same specialty. This was true for orthopedic surgeons, pediatric subspecialties, allergists, podiatrists and gastroenterologists, urologists and neurologists.

“Hospitals spend a good deal of their marketing budgets on brand building, and so it is possible that patients may view certain hospital affiliations as a quality indicator or they may feel an affinity based on some level of familiarity,” Kharraz said. The specialties where this seems to matter most may indicate patients are thinking ahead to a potential need for an inpatient procedure, he added.

Insurance differences 

More than four in five bookings were made using commercial insurance. Of the nearly 100,000 providers on Zocdoc, nearly 60% accept at least one government insurance plan. Earlier this year, Zocdoc launched booking for federally qualified health centers to further expand this supply of care.

Patients mostly went out of network or paid out of pocket for cosmetic procedures, mental health and dental care. In total, 8% of bookings on Zocdoc in 2023 were out of network. Meanwhile, specialists with the most in-network bookings included pulmonologists, dietitians, gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists and primary care docs. 

Specialists with the most out of network bookings included plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, reproductive endocrinologists, pain management specialists, oncologists and psychologists. 

In-person care is strong

Across nearly all specialties, patients strongly prefer in-person care. Excluding mental health, 8% of all bookings were for virtual visits. Meanwhile, 86% of mental health bookings were virtual, bringing the total portion of virtual visits booked to 18%. Markets that booked the most virtual care, excluding mental health, included San Francisco, Austin and Orlando. Those that booked the least were Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and New York.

Not including mental health practitioners, providers who offered both virtual and in-person visits received 51% more bookings than those that offered in-person only and 217% more than virtual-only providers.

Gender preferences

Zocdoc’s data showed that 65% of users booking appointments were women, while 35% were men. Nearly half of all bookers were millennials. More than half of patients whose appointments were booked by someone else were male. Millennial women did the most appointment management on behalf of others.

Patients preferred providers of their own sex, with 65% of female patient bookings being with female providers and 59% of male patient bookings made with male providers. Female OBGYNs, gastroenterologists and cardiologists received more bookings on average than their male counterparts. Meanwhile, male orthopedic surgeons, urologists and ENTs received more bookings on average than their female counterparts. 

Male mental health professionals received an average of 35% more bookings than female providers. That’s despite there being about four times as many female mental health professionals on the Zocdoc marketplace than male, and despite the fact that most mental health bookings are made for female patients.

Top specialties, appointment reasons

Among the top reasons people booked appointments in 2023 were annual physicals, annual gynecology exams and illness. The top specialists booked in 2023 were primary care docs, dermatologists and OBGYNs. Psychiatrists and psychologists were also on the list. Primary care bookings were consistent across all generations.

While the top 10 specialists mostly held steady from 2022, there were slight shifts in the top 10 bookings. Dermatology fell from first to fourth in 2023, Kharraz said. Anxiety rose two spots to seventh, while psychology consultation fell two spots to eighth.

In a November survey that reached 1,000 adults, Zocdoc found nearly one in five Americans say they have little to no control over their own healthcare. Nearly 15% of Americans say it’s difficult to access healthcare. People living in the South or being aged 25 to 34 years were the most likely to report having difficulty with access. 

The survey also revealed more than two-thirds of Americans are somewhat or very comfortable with their doctor, with that comfort increasing with age. Women report more overall discomfort with their providers than men.

“My main takeaway is that while it can be challenging for patients to access care and they want to feel more control over their care, once they do find a doctor they’re quite satisfied and comfortable with their provider,” Kharraz said. “We see this in our data as well, which shows that the vast majority of patients are loyal to their providers.”