Zocdoc was created to help patients book doctor appointments online. Its website allows users to search according to their symptoms or desired specialist type, location and insurance plan. Search results include ratings for each doctor based on reviews, which are verified to have come from actual patients. Users, for whom Zocdoc is free, can select an available time slot and fill out forms online.
A company spokeswoman told Crain's that more than half of providers in New York are paying the same or less annually for Zocdoc's service under the new policy. Doctors could opt in to it beginning April 1. Providers were able to stick with the old model until their contract expired or July 1, whichever came sooner.
Physicians now pay an annual $299 licensing fee, rather than the previous price of $3,000 a year, and pay a charge for new patients booking through Zocdoc that ranges from $35 to $110 based on their specialty. Primary care doctors pay less than high-priced specialists.
Dan Arick, an ear, nose and throat doctor with offices in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and Lower Manhattan, said he formerly paid Zocdoc about $250 monthly and got around 25 new patients from the service each month. Now the service wants to charge $60 per initial booking—even if the person doesn't show up. His odds of collecting a $60 no-show fee from a new patient are low.
For a typical first visit, Arick estimated he might be paid $75 to $150 by the insurance company. Although he comes out ahead if the patient shows up, Zocdoc is cutting into his profit margin.
"They're basically taking a piece of my practice," Arick said. "I don't want them to be a business partner even though I could theoretically make more money."
But rather than abandon the platform altogether, he opted to change his agreement with Zocdoc. Arick now pays the annual licensing fee in exchange for Zocdoc powering the booking link on his website. New patients who use that link can book an appointment without Arick incurring the $60 fee. But new patients trying to book an appointment with Arick on Zocdoc's website are told he doesn't have availability.
"We're aware that there's a vocal minority of providers who continue to publicly voice concerns about our new model," the Zocdoc spokeswoman said. "Most have received tremendous value over many years from participating in Zocdoc's marketplace under our legacy subscription model and are now upset that their prices may be increasing. We have seen, however, that there is often a disconnect between what these vocal providers are saying and what they are doing."
Indeed, some providers continue with Zocdoc despite objecting to the new pricing. Dr. Andras Fenyves, a primary care doctor who owns Prominis Medical Services, which has 12 offices in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, said he is upset but doesn't see an alternative.
"We may cut ties, but for now we are keeping it," he said. "I don't blame them from the business perspective. Right now they don't have a good competitor. If there's anyone that wants to compete with them, I will sign up immediately."