ZocDoc, Still Starry-Eyed at Age Four, Hits Boston, Adds Waitlists

Dr. Kharraz

Betabeat dropped by ZocDoc‘s ninth floor Soho office this afternoon for some of the startup’s famous catered lunch–today, sandwiches and salads from TriBeCa eatery Peace and Love, which employees munched at the cafeteria-style tables, each topped with a bottle of Sriracha.

Betabeat grabbed a salad and followed COO Oliver Kharraz and communications director Allison Braley into the conference room, decorated with an oversized painting of CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta giving Bravo TV’s Dr. Gregory House a triumphant high five. “I keep meaning to tweet that picture,” Ms. Braley said. “That’d be a good tweet,” we agreed.

On Friday last week, ZocDoc had a birthday party. CEO Cyrus Massoumi gave a rousing speech, we were told, as did former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, for whom healthcare reform is a chosen cause. Mr. Daschle talked about how ZocDoc’s simple solution–easy online booking, updated in real time, as a way to fill all the holes in doctors’ schedules–could play an important role in industry reform. Mr. Daschle, who now works for global law firm DLA Piper, is still close to the current administration and remains knee-deep in the government-led healthcare reform effort, so his endorsement was no small praise.

So, happy fourth birthday, we said. When’s the IPO? Where do you see ZocDoc in ten years?

“Oh! Ten years, that’s a very long time,” Dr. Kharraz said.

Between now and then, ZocDoc plans to continue its push toward getting more Americans access to doctors appointments. Dr. Kharraz is most interested in what ZocDoc can do to close the gap between the number of new uninsured patients brought into the system due to healthcare reform and the fact there’s not been a proportionate increase in the number of doctors in the system. In fact, the number of primary doctors is dwindling as older primary caregivers retire and students elect to go into the more lucrative specialist professions. He’s also interested in what ZocDoc can do to increase compliance–following doctor’s orders after an appointment, which as far as ZocDoc goes, means scheduling your next appointment and following up on referrals. “People don’t always care about their fitness,” he said, gesturing at his roast beef sandwich. “As you can see I’m eating something completely unhealthy and having a soda with it.”

We asked if ZocDoc was partnering with any local startups. We pointed to Fitocracy, which seems like it has some potential for solving that compliance problem.

The answer is, not really, Dr. Kharraz said, although partnerships may be more of a possibility in the far off future. “If you wait for all the other kids to play with you, you will get stalled,” he said.

ZocDoc is pretty much staying the course since Betabeat wrote about the company a few weeks ago. Still talking like they’re changing the world, still laser-focused on booking appointments online, even with that distracting pile of cash from Yuri Milner. The service just launched in Boston and has started to roll out a new feature–wait lists–which pings patients when a booked-up doctor has an appointment open up. This was one of their most-requested features, Ms. Braley said. They’re opting for incremental changes rather than a site refresh, Dr. Kharraz said.

ZocDoc is not even advertising outside of some search engine placement and a few banner ads we noticed scatted across the web. That’s because word of mouth has been their biggest referrer, Ms. Braley said, and they’d rather invest in things that will make people talk about ZocDoc. “If you do a Times Square ad, you’re replacing four developers,” Dr. Kharraz said. He’d rather invest inthe things that drive recommendations, such as product and customer service. “We do overemphasize customer service,” he said. ZocDoc, Still Starry-Eyed at Age Four, Hits Boston, Adds Waitlists