ZocDoc rival teams up with MagnaCare
DocASAP offers online appointments, but unlike its well-capitalized Manhattan rival, the start-up is partnering with big networks rather than recruit individual doctors.
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By Elaine Pofeldt @ElainePofeldt
September 25, 2012 10:52 a.m.
DocASAP, a doctor's appointment scheduling service that is a new rival to ZocDoc, has formed a strategic partnership with Manhattan-based MagnaCare, a health plan services company that has around 60,000 physicians and 850,000 members in its network in New York and New Jersey.
MagnaCare, whose network is used by self-insured employers and union benefit funds, launched DocASAP's service on its site last week. DocASAP's private-label technology allows patients in the network to search for a doctor, urgent care center, lab and other medical services within a specific geographic area and to book appointments online. It publishes physician profiles, along with reviews on wait times and bedside manner.
"We began working with DocASAP to enhance the member experience," said Joseph Berardo, MagnaCare's CEO and president.
Doctors want their patients to be able to book appointments online, he said, and between 100 and 150 providers have signed on. "I think it's going to ramp up pretty quickly," he added.
DocASAP is playing catch-up with ZocDoc, which was founded in 2007 and has attracted $95 million in venture capital. ZocDoc includes providers who participate in a variety of insurance plans and networks, including MagnaCare. Named one of Crain's New York Business' Best Places to Work for the past two years, ZocDOc pioneered the service of letting consumers book medical appointments online. More than 1.2 million customers use it each month to find a doctor or dentist, according to its website.
DocASAP is off to a strong start, though. Its first major client was the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which uses the technology at 35 locations in the Greater Philadelphia area to allow patients to book appointments online.
Former McKinsey and Co. consultant Puneet Maheshwari started the company as a business school project while he was working on his M.B.A. at Penn's Wharton School. "We started trying to commercialize the business in March 2012," he said. The seven-person operation is now a "pre-million-dollar company," Mr. Maheshwari added. "We're about to sign two more deals."
Mr. Maheshwari—an engineer by training who has worked in Silicon Valley—said he was inspired to launch the business after his one-year-old son suffered an ear infection and he could not find an ear, nose and throat specialist who would see him right away.
"We ended up in the emergency room and spent four or five hours there," he said. "At the end, they gave him antibiotics."
He thought there had to be a better way for patients to find available doctors—and soon found himself working on plans for DocASAP.
Rather than imitate ZocDoc's practice of recruiting individual practitioners, DocASAP has focused on cultivating relationships with big networks like MagnaCare.
"The way to scale in this industry is to form an ecosystem of alliances that enable you to grow more efficiently," Mr. Maheshwari said.
Forming these partnerships has also kept marketing costs in check, he noted. Unlike Penn's network, MagnaCare does not pay to use the system under a contract, but is working closely with DocASAP to spread the word among providers. DocASAP opened an office in Tinton Falls, NJ, to be near MagnaCare's new northern New Jersey office. "We realized we need to be really close to them at this stage," Mr. Maheshwari said.
Dr. Ronald Barg, executive director for clinical care associates of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, said that the organization has used DocASAP primarily to let new patients who are searching for a doctor to book appointments online. "It fulfills a need that our current internal systems are not set up to deliver," he said.
About 100 primary care physicians using DocASAP. So far, there have been no major technical problems or issues with no-show patients. "Patients really like it," Dr. Barg said.
The healthcare system is now promoting the online booking option to existing patients, who have tended to schedule follow up appointments while checking out of the doctor's office.