Jennifer B. Davis
Following the recommendation of a colleage and an unability to get an appointment with our normal primary care physician, we went to ZoomCare this weekend. If you are in Portland I highly recommend you check out their services. In any case, their approach illustrated 10 ways that innovators can change industries. I really hope my dentist, my hairdresser, and other service businesses I frequent are reading this.

1. Let your customers buy/schedule online
Go to http://www.zoomcare.com/ and pick your appointment time. So simple. Again, why can't I schedule a hair appointment like this? We scheduled my husband's appointment after hours and it was confirmed via email (our choice) by the next morning. The doctor had read the comments that we had put on our appointment request prior to the appointment.

2. Let customers be spontaneous
Their website includes a real-time graphic indicator of the wait time in their two offices. This is handy for estimating how an impromptu appointment will affect your day. There is no wait if you have an appointment, but if you don't, you can see how busy the place is without leaving your house.

3. Seize a niche
ZoomCare is in the gap between urgent care centers and traditional doctor's offices. You don't get to pick your doctor. They don't treat heart attacks, strokes, offer kidney dialysis, or deliver babies. They are a healthcare solution for folks that are generally healthy, but need periodic treatment.

4. Publish a price list
It is crazy to think that ZoomCare's website might be the first fee schedule I have ever seen in healthcare. Normally, insured patients don't even know what their healthcare is costing them (besides their co-pay and then the statement that they receive showing what the insurance has paid). This doesn't lead to good consumer behavior. It is fee schedules like ZoomCare that make me think that I could accept one of those catastrophy-only healthcare plans, where I'd pay out of pocket (but before tax) for office visits, etc. The fees didn't seem too bad and even if all of us came into the office each month, the fees would be less than I am paying in insurance today (and my employer pays most of it, so I am only seeing a portion of the actual cost).

5. Don't underhire your front-line staff
ZoomCare hires front-desk staff that have college degrees and diverse backgrounds. Where other doctors offices have clerks, these guys are more like cruise directors. I suspect the hiring managers would love their office associates had experience in a circus, speaking multiple languages, and had degrees in diverse fields. After all, they are the face of the company and should be a reason people come back. The doctor was great, too!

6. Treat your customers like intelligent, rational human beings
My husband was shown in his diagnosis by the doctor (with the use of a video screen). Then the front desk person walked him through the treatment handout at the desk and had a bag of information ready for him when he left.

7. Partner seamlessly
Zoomcare accepted our insurance (it was listed on their website as one of the plans they accepted). They emailed (or appeared to email) the prescription to the pharmacy of our choice. My doctor's office by contrast, made me call into their separate prescription line and I had to provide the phone number and address of the Costco pharmacy that I wanted them to use, something they could have Googled as well as I could.

8. Don't partner when you can provide
The office itself had a whole little store front set up where they sold over the counter treatments and other items that their customers might need. It reminded me of the little stores set up in hotel lobbies for those who forgot their toothpaste. If the patient needed aspirin and some cough drops, they could get them right there and avoid yet another stop along the way.

9. Don't underestimate the power of a happy customer
We were told at Zoomcare by someone (who was impressed by the follow-up phone call he received to ensure he was feeling better). We have gone on to tell no fewer than 12 people (and that was before this blog post) about the service.

10. Make your customers beg for more
We already wish they had an office closer to us (it was worth the drive, but could be more convenient). The ZoomCare brand could certainly expand to a whole range of health services. I wish they had dentists/hygenists on staff (although my dentist's office practices would make them a great candidate for running a ZoomCare Dental office). They could expand to vision care. They could expand to an online over-the-counter medication store with home delivery. They could expand to home health care of other types. The positive brand they have built can expand out to new endeavors. Perhaps ZoomCare will expand to a neighborhood near you!
1 Response
  1. kristi w Says:

    That sounds pretty amazing! Last time I was sick I had to call our advice nurse who would decide whether or not to schedule me. She wanted to "wait it out" another day (easy for her to say). I decided to try urgent care - something I hadn't done since college. The wait time? Three hours!! I told them that I would take the torture of strep throat (which is was), rather than sit in that office with my three kids for three hours!