Online appointments? Consumers yawn

February 23, 2007

DoctorsDirect, a 5-month-old company that specializes in online appointment booking, has dropped its fee of $1.50-$2.00 per booking because not enough people use that service, says Tommy McGloin, the company's CEO. The former AOL and Mapquest executive has also found that physicians are hesitant to let patients book appointments online. While several other companies enable patients to request appointments through their websites or physician sites, McGloin has discovered that doctors don't want to relinquish control over scheduling to patients.

DoctorsDirect, a 5-month-old company that specializes in online appointment booking, has dropped its fee of $1.50-$2.00 per booking because not enough people use that service, says Tommy McGloin, the company's CEO. The former AOL and Mapquest executive has also found that physicians are hesitant to let patients book appointments online. While several other companies enable patients to request appointments through their websites or physician sites, McGloin has discovered that doctors don't want to relinquish control over scheduling to patients.

"Workflow is a big consideration for practices," he points out. "So even if consumers are demanding online appointment setting, or would like it, it will take some time before practices feel comfortable with adopting it."

A Harris Interactive survey last year showed that 75 percent of adults would like to make appointments online but only 4 percent did. In light of that finding, McGloin is surprised that most aren't willing to pay even a small fee for the privilege of not having to wait on the phone to speak with a receptionist.

DoctorsDirect, which is now trying to attract advertising revenue, has launched its service in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston and New York. Besides appointments, the company's website (www.doctorsdirect.com) offers detailed physician directories and forms patients can fill out before visits.

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