January 8, 2012

Finding A Doctor In The Age Of The Internet

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Recently, CycleGuy and I were talking about a few people we know who’ve had to go to urgent care. Since we have a primary care doctor, urgent care really isn’t on our radar. What we’ve found out though is that not everyone is like us. More and more people don’t have a ‘family doctor’ any more.

When I was looking for a pediatric ophthalmologist for BabyGirl, I was fortunate that a good friend had a recommendation. But not everyone has friends who can recommend a doctor. That’s where the internet comes in. Search engines have replaced the yellow pages. And more and more we’re looking for ratings, reviews and information to determine if this product or service is worth our time and money. So it makes logical sense that having a resource to find a doctor is available.

I was recently told about an online physician database where you can find information about doctors and dental professionals in various practice areas, in your city, and some with ratings and reviews. ZocDoc is more than just an online yellow pages of sorts. Doctors sign up to be part of the database and they put in information about the health plans they accept and upload their schedules to help you book an appointment online.

I read the privacy policy and was satisfied that my information would not be sold and that any personally identifying information would not be exploited. In reading the Terms of Service, I noticed that the doctors pay a fee to be part of the database. Makes sense. It’s how doctors need to market themselves in the internet age. But in doing so, the doctors open themselves up to being rated by patients. This is a big step because that’s one thing we all want to know about a doctor – what is he or she like, how do they handle questions, what’s their ‘bedside manner’.

While I’m not in the market for a doctor right now, I did check the site out in a few practice areas that I may need to consult in the near future. One difficulty I noticed is that the insurance plans listed for my insurance carrier were all individual plans and it did not include my group plan. I figured, though, if they took one of the plans then they might take my group plan. Not an perfect situation, but at least close.

I found a doctor I might use and I went through the appointment set-up process to the point of actually setting up the appointment. It was very easy, and there was a phone verification step to ensure the office would be able to call you. One thing I really liked was when setting up the appointment, you’re told if the doctor would not be performing the service. For example, to get a consultation for dermatologist it told me that a Physician’s Assistant would see me. This was both good and bad. I was glad to know up front that I may not see the doctor. At the same time, I was disappointed because the reviews are for the doctor, not the PA so I was still in the dark about the person I’d potentially see.

Although new, ZocDoc already has an endorsement from the New York Times. That’s pretty impressive! And they have an android ZocDoc app to help find a doctor if you’re on the go. I think that would come in handy if you’re traveling and needed to find a doctor or dentist. In addition, the ZocDoc Facebook page is very active and they are responsive to their fans and often share tips on healthy living.

I noticed that the list of doctors currently is limited to the more general practice area, while they’re looking to expand their listings of specialists. It means they’re growing and soon will have a pretty comprehensive database of physicians and dental professionals that others will have visited and reviewed. The internet age has definitely changed how we seek medical care. Many of us think we can just go to the Google School of Medicine. Having an online resource with reviews and the ability to book appointments online will be such a time saver!

The booking online feature was very cool! No longer do you have to call during business hours and then go through the dance of what times the doctor has available and what your schedule can accommodate. Just go online, click on an appointment time that works and make the appointment. For me this would be great because I always forget to call until after hours. Or I call and they’re at lunch. For many, I think this online booking option will make seeing a doctor much easier.

Next time you’re looking for a doctor, definitely check out ZocDoc. And if you’re traveling and need a doctor, jump online and find a doctor that not only rates well but may also take your insurance.

Disclosure: I was selected for this sponsored review by the Clever Girls Collective. To learn more about ZocDoc, please visit their website.

Sara

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