Former U.S. Senators Bill Frist, a doctor and former Senate majority leader, and Tom Daschle, author of Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis and former Senate minority leader, have both joined ZocDoc’s advisory board, the doctor appointment booking startup announced today.
“We very much view both these senators joining our advisory board as sort of welcoming ZocDoc to the party in terms of the healthcare establishment,” ZocDoc CEO Cyrus Massoumi told Betabeat. “We have big plans for how we want to help improve the healthcare system… we’re excited that we’re going to have the ears and the thoughts of people that really have shaped the healthcare system to date and helped to make it better.”
To most of its users, ZocDoc is a convenient way to book doctors’ appointments. But to elected officials, it represents an easy efficiency in a highly inefficient system. There is a shortage of physicians in the U.S., Mr. Massoumi said; one way to alleviate long wait times for patients is to ensure all available appointments are being booked.
“Healthcare is so massive that, yes,we are a younger company but we have very large aspirations within the healthcare ecosystem,” Mr. Massoumi said, pointing to the opportunities raised by ZocDoc’s close relationship with patients and log of their medical appointments. Additionally, healthcare laws could end up impacting ZocDoc. The startup is careful to keep patient information confidential, for example. “It’s very important to us that we understand all the different facets of healthcare,” Mr. Massoumi said.
The bipartisan duo joins ZocDoc advisors Ron Conway of SV Angel; Emil Michael, an early investor; and according to SecondMarket, blog mogul-turned-VC Michael Arrington.
Adding politicians as official advisors is not unheard but is not common among startups; by adding a former official from each party, ZocDoc sidesteps some of the potential blowback it could invite by affiliating itself with politicians (the men have opposing views on abortion, for example, not to mention a few scandals: here, here and here, for example).
But both ex-pols are powerhouses within the healthcare-industrial complex with decades of experience with the system and healthcare policy. Sen. Frist was a working heart surgeon before his tenure in the Senate, when he performed over 150 heart and lung transplants, according to a press release. He serves as chairman of the Harvard Medical School Board of Fellows, Adjunct Professor of cardiac surgery at Vanderbilt, clinical professor of surgery at Meharry Medical School, and “on the boards of numerous private and public healthcare companies as well as the Kaiser Family Foundation.”
“I’ve dedicated my life to affecting change in healthcare as a practicing surgeon and professor, a senator and policy maker, and through medical mission work here at home and globally,” Doctor and Sen. Bill Frist said in the release. “The same technologies that have fundamentally transformed other industries need to be applied in healthcare, where they will both dramatically enhance patient convenience and markedly improve patients’ overall health.”
In addition to co-writing a book on universal healthcare, Sen. Daschle is a member of the Health Policy and Management Executive Council at the Harvard School of Public Health; the Global Policy Advisory Council for the Health Worker Migration; the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation Board of Trustees; and the GE Healthymagination Advisory Board. His day job is senior policy advisor to the law firm of DLA Piper “where he provides clients with strategic advice on public policy issues such as climate change and health care,” according to the release.
“In order to see real change in our healthcare system, we all need to work together to help control skyrocketing costs and provide the access to care patients not only need, but deserve,” Sen. Daschle said in the release. “I firmly believe in the power of the private sector—and specifically ZocDoc—to work in tandem with policy makers and the medical community to change healthcare for the better by scaling our system for the future and empowering patients.”
ZocDoc also announced it is used by more than 800,000 patients each month; it’s the first time we’ve seen them release this metric. ZocDoc now offers 5.5 million available appointments with doctors and medical providers in 13 cities across the U.S. and continues to expand. The startup has about 200 employees; up from around 50-60 last year, Mr. Massoumi said.