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Zocdoc Sheds Light on User Appointment Scheduling Trends

Zocdoc users tended to prefer in-person care that is close to home, scheduled for earlier in the week, and wouldn’t have a long appointment scheduling wait.

Zocdoc Sheds Light on User Appointment Scheduling Trends

Zocdoc users tended to prefer in-person care that is close to home, scheduled for earlier in the week, and wouldn’t have a long appointment scheduling wait.

What goes on inside a patient’s head when scheduling a medical appointment? The latest report from online provider search and appointment booking site Zocdoc is shedding some insight.

The inaugural What Patients Want Report gives a glimpse into Zocdoc user trends. Zocdoc says has millions of users and is host to nearly 100,000 healthcare providers with whom those users can book appointments. This report breaks down some user behavior data to outline how patients approach provider search and selection, booking, and access—at least on Zocdoc’s online platform.

"As the leading healthcare marketplace, we offer patients the ability to search and book with nearly 100,000 providers across every specialty, every state and every segment," Zocdoc founder and CEO Oliver Kharraz, MD, said in a press release. "By aggregating a diverse array of providers that patients can choose from, all in one place, we empower them to have more control over their care. We are proud to give voice to what patients really want by highlighting emerging trends and preferences expressed through the millions of bookings made through Zocdoc each year."

By and large, women head up healthcare booking, with 65 percent of appointments booked on Zocdoc being made by women, the report began.

Women booked 6 percent more appointments than their male counterparts, but that gap closed as patients aged. For example, the appointment booking deficit for Gen Z was 9 percent; for Baby Boomers, it was 1 percent. This could be the dual effect of women of reproductive age and older men having greater healthcare needs, plus higher empowerment and engagement from female users.

But it’s not just appointments for themselves that women are booking. In an examination of sub-patient bookers, or people scheduling an appointment on behalf of someone else, the vast majority were made by women. Eight in 10 appointments sub-booked for males were done by women, as were 72 percent of sub-booked appointments for females.

Overall, Millennial women were the most likely to schedule a medical appointment on behalf of someone else, potentially because they manage their children’s and aging parents’ care.

Notably, people are using their phones to schedule medical appointments more often. People using the mobile Zocdoc app booked 20 percent more appointments than those using the desktop version of the website.

Other demographic trends include a higher representation of commercially insured patients, with four in five bookings happening for those with commercial insurance.

Additionally, Millennials represented the largest generation using Zocdoc to book appointments. This does not mean that Millennials are the most likely to book a medical appointment; it indicates that they are the most likely to use digital tools to book an appointment.

In terms of appointment and provider characteristics, short appointment wait times remain top-of-mind. Around a third of appointments booked using Zocdoc took place within 48 hours of booking, signaling that patients need their care right away. Around half (47 percent) happened within four days of booking.

Patients are also mostly looking for in-person appointments, although for organizations looking to increase patient volumes overall, it’s important to offer both in-person and telehealth. Providers that offered both in-person and telehealth/virtual options got 51 percent more bookings than those that offered in-person only and 217 percent more than those that offered telehealth only.

But it’s not just speed and appointment modality; patients also care about who their doctor is.

Zocdoc users showed a preference to meet with a provider who is the same gender as them. Providers with a hospital affiliation on their profile got, on average, three times as many bookings, while having a photo meant 2.8 times more bookings, having more reviews yielded 11 times more bookings, and those who speak more than two languages got twice as many bookings.

Speaking three languages yielded around three times more bookings, on average.

Overall, patients feel good about the providers they pick on Zocdoc, the report showed. The average overall rating is 4.79 stars out of five. For bedside manner, patients rated an average of 4.83, and for wait times, an average of 4.69.

Next, the report dove into the types of care users seek, showing that patients are mostly using Zocdoc to find their usual source of care or primary care provider. In addition to PCPs, users are looking for dermatologists, OB-GYNs, dentists, psychiatrists, psychologists, optometrists, podiatrists, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, and ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors.

Visit reasons ran the gamut of annual physicals, screenings, consultations, and mental healthcare treatment.

Gen Z patients made up a higher share of folks looking for mental healthcare, while older adults were underrepresented in this area.

Notably, obesity and weight loss consultation and Ozempic or Wegovy consultation cracked the top 10 visit reasons for women, signaling the public’s interest in these weight loss drugs.

In terms of when patients book their appointments, the data showed that midday at the start of the typical work week was the most popular. Tuesday was the most common day for an appointment, while Sunday was the least common. Users most often booked 10 a.m. appointment slots, followed by 2 p.m. and 11 a.m.

On the flip side, the most common days for appointment cancellations were Sundays and Saturdays. During the business week, users were more likely to cancel their appointments as the day wore on; cancellations grew more common after 4 p.m.

Patients were less likely to cancel their appointments when they obtained a slot in the near-term. For every 24 hours that passed between booking and the appointment, the odds of a cancelation grew by 4 percent, Zocdoc said.

These insights could be useful for helping organizations get a handle on when patients want to come into the office, helping them better address, or even fill, cancellations and no-shows.

The data also made the case for online appointment scheduling, although this could have been the byproduct of looking exclusively at Zocdoc user data. Around half (48 percent) of appointments booked with Zocdoc were booked when doctor’s offices are usually closed, showing that online platforms for appointment scheduling could be useful for expanding patient access to care.

The report went on to look at where patients want to access care, showing a considerable preference for close proximity. Around half of all virtual appointments took place within 20 miles of the patient, compared to about 80 percent of in-person appointments. Close proximity, which was measured as being within 20 miles of the patient, was most important for physical therapy, pediatrics, and sports medicine providers.

Finally, Zocdoc measured patient empowerment, which it said encompassed patient access to care, comfort with providers, and control over their healthcare.

Around half of patients said they feel in control of their own healthcare, while two-thirds said it’s somewhat or very easy to access healthcare. Patients are somewhat or very comfortable with their providers, with 69 percent saying as much. All of that culminated in a patient empowerment index score of 58.9 on a 200-point scale ranging from -80 to 120.

Patient loyalty is high, the analysis showed. Around four-fifths of patients are rebooking with the same provider when they are seeking care within the same specialty. This trend is consistent across genders and age groups.

Correction 12/14/2023: This article has been updated to correct a spelling error in Zocdoc's name.

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