Zocdoc On The Telehealth Boom And Launching Its First National TV Campaign

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Everyone knows what happened in March: COVID-19 broke out.

But Zocdoc CEO Oliver Kharraz, who is also a physician, was already pivoting his company to respond to the impending crisis. In February, he told everyone at Zocdoc, an app that connects patients with healthcare providers online, to drop their projects and begin building capabilities to support telehealth.

Fast forward six months and Zocdoc has 10,000 providers using its telehealth platform, “up from almost nothing” at the beginning of the year, said Richard Fine, VP of strategy at Zocdoc.

Video visits account for 20% of all Zocdoc bookings, and range as high as 80% of bookings in specialties such as mental health.

But as states have begun to reopen, people are starting to get comfortable with visiting certain healthcare providers in person once again. So Zocdoc is positioning itself as a platform where patients can choose between virtual or in-person care. This shift has led to the company’s first national TV campaign in August.

“Our strategy is to get ourselves out there, speak to patients and let them choose the type of care they’re looking for,” Fine said.

He spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: How did the shift to telehealth change Zocdoc’s marketing strategy?

RICHARD FINE: We stopped all the initiatives we were working on and thought about how to market telehealth to providers and patients. How do we market Zocdoc as a service that has both?

A lot of healthcare advertising focuses on the medical part: I have a problem and this drug or hospital did a great thing for me. But if you talk to people about their experiences with healthcare, a lot of the pain comes from things around the doctor, like not being able to find the right provider or dealing with insurance. Zocdoc makes those parts easier.

Why was now the right time to launch Zocdoc’s first TV campaign?

We wanted to introduce the brand to a wider range of people as the place they can go if they’re looking for choice. If you want a video visit, you can have it. If you want in person, you can have it. Our TV spot highlights the different ways you can receive care, but also the idea that we can help you manage the frustration around finding the right care.

It’s a higher funnel brand campaign explaining what Zocdoc is. That’s a new part of our strategy. Our new business model, [which compensates providers when patients sign up, rather than paying a flat fee to be featured on the platform] allows us to get paid more per patient sign-up. This has opened up new channels like TV.

What was your marketing strategy prior to launching on TV?

We have a pretty strong digital marketing team. We typically do a lot of bottom-funnel search and app download campaigns. We’re very user acquisition focused. We’ve been limited in the amount we could spend, so we typically went with cheap, lower-funnel channels.

What trends have you seen in how people engage with telehealth, and how will that impact your marketing strategy going forward?

We’ve found most people still prefer in-person care for many things. Tele-dentistry is of limited value. There are some use cases, but people need their teeth to be cleaned in person.

But mental health is now predominantly virtual care. You can get almost the same value from seeing a mental health professional virtually, plus it’s safer and you cut down on travel time. I expect that to be virtual care forever.

This interview has been edited and condensed.