ZOCDOC is a web service, which allows patients to see a medical provider without waiting weeks for a free slot in their appointments. It also helps providers to fill their appointments if some encounters were cancelled and keep the workflow stable. Zocdoc is used by over 6 million US patients a month, usually patient gets an encounter within 24 hours. And moreover, the cost was fine for providers and both sides were happy to use it.
Awesome service, isn’t it? But the sky gets clouded when Zocdoc told doctors that the price is changing – this change seems to be unbearable burden for many practices. Also the new pricing model means fees for referrals, which is illegal. A clause from New York State definitions of Professional Misconduct: “Directly or indirectly offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving or agreeing to receive, any fee or other consideration to or from a third party for the referral of a patient or in connection with the performance of professional services“, full text is here.
Jennifer Kirschenbaum, a New York attorney: 'They're leaving their customers with potential exposure. The laws relative to whether or not there's a violation have a much greater implication to the physician.'
Doctors reacted quickly and after a Facebook discussion a petition on web was created and has got more than 300 signatures on today already:
“Effective October 1, 2018, ZocDoc is charging medical practices a referral fee for patients who book appointments through ZocDoc.com. It used to charge just a flat fee. But a referral fee is illegal for patients with Medicare and Medicaid plans, so ZocDoc is waiving this fee for Medicare and Medicaid patients. Instead it is charging for patients with private insurance. We think in principle it should be illegal to charge this referral fee for anyone. It violates professional medical ethics, and New York State has a law prohibiting referral fees. ZocDoc is trying to get an exemption of this law from the New York State Office of Inspector General. ZocDoc should not be above the law. ZocDoc needs to cease and desist from charging a referral fee. If they do not, medical practices need to voice their concern by canceling their ZocDoc accounts. They can't be a part of this ZocDoc scam.”
After this heated reaction Zocdoc decided to hold the change, at least for now. From CNBC article: “Zocdoc said in a statement that it's looking for a pricing model that allows more doctors to join the network, and it expects that most existing customers in New York will not be paying more under the new framework.”
Well, let’s see what the new pricing model will be presented by Zocdoc. Most of the doctors suppose that this is just a delay and the change will be implemented anyway.