Zocdoc, startups expanding telehealth offerings to meet demand

Online medical appointment booking company Zocdoc has added telehealth appointments to its platform in response to the spike in demand for virtual care.

More than 3,500 Zocdoc providers have already signed up to offer video visits, with hundreds more signing up every day, the company said. It's the first time the company has offered virtual appointments to its network of providers. Zocdoc doesn't disclose its total network size, but 3,500 represents a small fraction of the company's total provider network, officials said.

The company added more than 350,000 video visit appointments across 50 medical specialties to its platform in just one week. 

With the COVID pandemic, there has been a surge in demand for virtual care, for COVID-19 and routine healthcare needs. As more people turn to telemedicine, the current infrastructure is bursting at the seams. Patients have run into long wait times, often waiting several hours for a virtual visit.

Zocdoc's new virtual visit feature helps to alleviate the strain by adding capacity to the system, the company said.

After one week, more than 20% of Zocdoc’s total bookings are for virtual appointments, and roughly 30% of video visit bookers are first-time Zocdoc users, the company said.

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Patients have already booked virtual appointments for more than 350 different medical needs, such as anxiety, allergies, dental emergencies, ear infection, and stomach pain. Roughly 20% of video visit bookings are for COVID-19 related reasons, while 80% are for routine care, according to Zocdoc.

Zocdoc has also integrated third-party telehealth services to help patients find on-demand or scheduled care in one place. These integrations include PlushCare, as well as partnerships with NewYork-Presbyterian and Houston Methodist, powered by Amwell.

Expanding infrastructure

Several startups have expanded their telehealth offerings to meet the increased demand for virtual care. New York-based digital health startup Pager added an artificial intelligence-powered feature specific to COVID-19 triage and risk assessment to its care navigation and telemedicine platform.

The "white-labeled" COVID triage solution can be deployed by health plans or health systems "within a matter of days," the company said. Pager developed a clinical triage protocol that first identifies members at risk for COVID-19 before navigating them to the right point of care according to their needs and symptoms, the company said.

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Wellness startup Hims & Hers fast-tracked an expansion of its telehealth services to offer access to primary care. The company rolled out the service in two weeks, first launching in five states "where the burden on the hospital system and brick-and-mortar provider practices has been particularly severe," according to the company.

Hims & Hers virtual primary care service has now expanded to an additional 12 states. Virtual primary care visits cost $39. The wellness brand also rolled out a COVID screening tool for patients on its websites.

Zocdoc's new virtual appointment feature is helping doctors keeping their "digital" doors open for business, the company said.

“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, M.D., Zocdoc founder and CEO.

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“These telehealth capabilities have always been on our roadmap, but we’ve dramatically accelerated these efforts to support patients and providers amid COVID-19. 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," Kharraz said. “Looking beyond the current public health crisis, I believe these new modes of care are here to stay."