With COVID vaccines finally being rolled out to priority groups in the U.S., the nation is now at the starting point of an unprecedented experiment that began nearly a year ago.
Digital health care services and virtual hubs are playing some of the most critical roles in the coronavirus vaccine rollout. Where do you get it? Did you get the right one? Where do you even find such information in the midst of a data and news deluge?
It sounds like something out of a dystopian fever dream. But perhaps the most surprising reality is the extent to which companies large and small have rallied to support this crucial effort. Zocdoc, the New York–based medical appointment startup, is among that arsenal. And it just launched a service specifically tailored toward leading Americans to a COVID vaccine.
That may include directing you to the local pharmacy or hospital which will finally carry the vaccine, and that data is pooled from local health authorities. Those who use the service aren’t even asked for their names or expected to pay money. It is, in Zocdoc CEO and cofounder Oliver Kharraz’s telling, a purely informational tool that can reach the vast majority of the population. And the localized content could prove crucial during the upcoming vaccination campaign, seeing as state and local governments will have disparate strategies in how they allocate various COVID vaccines.
To be clear, Zocdoc isn’t a health care provider. It’s more of a hub. You can find physicians and medical services in what Kharraz describes as a bazaar of sorts for medicine and related information. You can link up with primary care physicians within your network, or in this case, even without being a Zocdoc user, access information about COVID vaccines such as the ones coming from Pfizer and Moderna.
“We understand ourselves really as sort of a marketplace, where consumers can find what’s available to them,” Kharraz tells Fortune. “And we are, in some ways, a neutral entity. So in that respect there’s a broad spectrum of services Zocdoc users can benefit from. We don’t have a horse in this race. We can just try and put forward what you think is objectively the best information for patients and give them the ability to act on this.”
So how does that actually look on the ground? As a private company, Zocdoc doesn’t reveal the nitty-gritty of its metrics. But Kharraz shared some details.
“We cover roughly 70% to 80% of the population without easy access to health services, meaning we have a health care access point close to them,” he says. “And we’re obviously constantly trying to use this for the vaccine effort. You know, honestly, we would try to go beyond the doctors that are bookable on our side as necessary and point patients to other resources where they could get vaccines as well.”
Basically, the goal is to get patients informed about what’s going on during an unprecedented immunization campaign.
“If you want to take advantage of this offering, all you need to do is go to the website, and we can provide you the link,” says Kharraz. “And you can give us some basic information that we believe is going to be relevant to tailoring the information you get to your specific case.
“The reality of it is…the simplification and the absorption of complexity into a system like Zocdoc, and then just providing the patient with information and actionable tools. That’s ultimately the value that we’ve been bringing for over a decade. And I think that’s the value that we continue to bring in this specific situation,” he says.