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Summary:

BetterDoctor, a startup that takes a data-driven approach to helping people find quality doctors in their area, this week launched its first mobile app on iOS.

ZocDoc may be the big kahuna when it comes to booking a doctor ASAP but BetterDoctor believes it can make a name for itself as a service for finding a quality doctor in general.

Launched by the former head of Nokia’s App Studios after a frustrating personal run-in with the health care system, the startup provides easy access to a searchable database of about 600,000 doctors nationwide.  It launched on the web and with a mobile optimized last fall but on Thursday released its first mobile app for the iPhone.

“What we focus on is the discovery problem – it’s not always about needing to find a doctor today,” said founder and CEO Ari Tulla, referencing ZocDoc. And, he added, that when it comes to mobile, “If I learned anything [at Nokia], it’s that mobile has to be very simple – there has to be one thing that it does well.”

For BetterDoctor, he hopes that one thing is helping people find a good doctor in as little time as possible.

BetterDoctorTo streamline the process, the service only helps people search for a general practitioners, dentists, pediatricians, OB/GYNs and optometrists (as opposed to the endless array of specialists available on ZocDoc and other sites).  And it only lets people search by location and insurance company. The service is free to consumers but earns revenue through lead generation.

Similar to ZodDoc, the app then returns a list of relevant doctors, with biographical and contact information, specialties, affiliations and reviews (supplied by Yelp). But Tulla said the company pays special attention to evaluating doctor quality. While other doctor discovery marketplaces may give prime real estate to those willing to pay for it regardless of how good they are, he said BetterDoctor uses big data and machine learning algorithms to attempt to validate each doctor.

In addition to the basics – a doctor’s education, board certification and experience – the startup looks at patient reviews, malpractice history and referral data that can indicate whom other doctors hold in high esteem.  Doctors that meet all of its criteria surface most visibly in searches and get a special designation as a validated physician; doctors that have don’t pass malpractice screenings or have other issues end up closer to the bottom of the list.

BetterDoctor is definitely not without competition – besides ZocDoc, companies like HealthTap, PokitDok, HealthInReach and others fall somewhere on the spectrum in the doctor discovery space. But I like their data-driven approach to validating doctors (HealthTap also attempts to rank doctors by quality although it uses slightly different variables), and I appreciate their stance on reviews. Tulla said patient reviews are only a part of how doctors are ranked because “consumer reviews are tricky in healthcare.”  Studies have shown that on most doctor review sites, there aren’t enough reviews for them to be reliable and that they tend to skew positive.

Unlike many doctor discovery sites, BetterDoctor doesn’t let patients leave reviews and comments of their own because Tulla said they don’t yet have a way to verify that a patient actually met with the doctor.  But he indicated that it’s something they could roll out in the future.

Tulla declined to share too many details on user activity or revenue, but said the company, which has raised about $525,000 in seed funding so far, has been used by hundreds of thousands of people.

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  1. You can find the app on App Store by searching “betterdoctor” or following this link:
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/betterdoctor/id588931415

  2. Finding a doctor is a great start, but how do you ensure an ability to make an appointment? Calling a doctor’s office as a patient is extremely exhausting, especially if you are not an existing patient, or are not go through a network that has privileges to appointments set aside.

    In an earlier interview Ari stated something about discovery and Booking appointments, but I don’t see that feature solution like with ZocDoc (bookings), you can call, but that is where the nightmare begins for most patients…

    looks like a good start, but this space is in need of functional solutions to the main issues, getting an appointment is a Top Level issue.

  3. Access is a huge issue in healthcare today. Primary care physicians are overloaded by demand–leading to the infamous “7 minute visit” when you finally can see a provider. The primary care docs dislike it as much as the patients–this isn’t the way they envisioned things would be when they went to medical school.

    Telemedicine offers a huge opportunity to deal with many, many routine concerns without even entering a physician’s office. The experts say as much as 65 to 70% of the problems that send us to the doctor’s office could be handled over the phone or by webcam. It’s cheaper, it’s faster, and the care is top-notch. It’s a very real component of the solution to the healthcare quagmire. And it can end that patient nightmare Robert calls out.

    Peg Carver, EVP Service Delivery, CareSimple/Carena, Inc. http://www.CareSimple.com

  4. @Robert BetterDoctor is in process of getting the consumer apps out during the early part of the year. There will be a lot of exciting news following this first step.

    1. @Ari I am looking forward to seeing what you guys have come down the pipe.

      Good luck, the initial stuff looks and works great.

      Robert Capelli, Founder of Allayo http://www.allayo.com

  5. Doctor finders are a nice tool for patients, and useful for certain specialities, but unfortunately sometimes an in-person visit cannot be found quickly enough (I need this bladder infection treated ASAP). In fact, many urgent care/primary care conditions may not need an office visit at all. We at http://www.caresimple.com, offer another alternative to the traditional office visit; specifically a virtual doctor visit for many common clinical conditions (UTI, sinus infections, rash, influenza to name a few), and are available immediately and 24/7.

    I love the fact that BetterDoctor and ZocDoc are helping to solve the issue of in-person access, but fortunately for patients now there’s another high quality, safe, and cost effective alternative to the office visit.

    Ben Green, MD
    Medical Director
    http://www.caresimple.com

  6. This obsession with Doctors should end, there are PAs and nurse practitioners who equally give good care just they don’t have medical degree.
    Our healthcare structure needs to be overhauled. What point is there to see a medic for & min and leave with your problem.
    Let’s change our attitudes, restructure health and engage and highlight practitioners that equally give good care, not just doctors. They are but one of the means to good health not and end to it!

  7. ZocDoc is stand alone the best service out there. It is an actual physical tool between doctor and patient. This is basically a web version of the yellow pages.

  8. Virtually all of the patient reviews on ZocDoc are overwhelmingly positive, five star reviews. And doctors pay for ZocDoc as a marketing tool. I think it’s safe to say that ZocDoc is very biased and no patient should be choosing a doctor based on ZocDoc reviews. Check other websites and the reviews for the same doctor can be very different. Don’t trust ZocDoc!

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