Appointment Service Can Get Family, Friend to Doctor Quickly


Q: This isn’t strictly a financial question — but unless I get an answer, it might cost our family a lot of money. We have health insurance from work, but my husband won’t go to a doctor for a checkup. He’s overweight, and I’m worried that he will have a heart attack or something. He says he will go, but then he procrastinates. Any ideas?

A: Actually, this is a huge financial issue for America. The Trust for America reported that prevention programs could save the country more than $16 billion annually, within five years. And your family could be affected, because even with insurance, the deductibles and copayments for a serious illness could wipe out your savings. And if you wait until a crisis sends you to an emergency room, the costs could be even larger — out of your pocket, and to the nation’s health care budget.

Once you get your spouse to visit a doctor, they’ll provide the encouragement for regular follow-up visits. But it’s that first step that’s most difficult. Finding a new doctor, whether a specialist or a physician in general practice, is an intimidating process. Then getting an appointment can take time, wiping out the momentum of the decision.

I have a solution for you: It’s a fast-growing service that now has more than 2.5 million patients using it every month to find a doctor or dentist — and immediately book an appointment online. Whether you’re searching for a primary care physician, a cardiologist, OB-GYN or a urologist, you’ll find a wide choice within more than 35 specialties. And you can sort the physicians that are in-network for your health plan and are associated with a hospital in your plan.

Sort of like Angie’s List, the site allows patients to post feedback on their experience. So you get the benefit of specific recommendations and comments. But only “verified” patients — those who have completed their appointment with the physician — are allowed to post.

You might wonder if it is only novice or struggling doctors who join this service. That is far from the case. Yes, ZocDoc does allow physicians to find new patients. But many well-established practices are using this service for their existing patients, allowing them the convenience of booking an appointment online. That saves time and money in the physician’s office, freeing staff for patient care. And the site allows patients to fill out their medical forms, safely and confidentially, online before their first office visit. If you’re making a follow-up appointment, the information is stored and automatically added to your appointment information.

ZocDoc allows doctors offices to fill last-minute cancellations and become more efficient. And it cuts waiting time for patients. The site says it helps most patients see a doctor within 24 to 72 hours — versus a 20-day national average wait time.

It’s astounding to me that health care, one of the largest segments in our economy, has been one of the laggards in using new technology — from medical records to doctor appointments. We’ve long been able to book a seat on an airplane using this type of technology, or choose the provider of plumbing or electrical services based on “community” recommendations. Now, technology is improving access to medical care — and saving us money. And when you see how easy it is to use, I’m sure your husband will finally make — and keep — that appointment.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. She appears weekly on WMAQ-Channel 5’s 4:30 p.m. newscast, and can be reached at She is the author of the new book, “The New Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Really Need to Retire?” To find out more about Terry Savage and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at