Docmein is an online appointment scheduling service focused on private practices. The value proposition is that providers and patients can both use this online service to request and confirm appointments without any software to install. Side benefits are timely email reminders and custom pages for patients and practices.

It’s a bit surprising that healthcare continues to get the onslaught of simple web ideas repackaged from elsewhere. Perhaps its due to the relative ease of executing on internet-based ideas today. More importantly, it underscores how poor is the public perception of healthcare IT. Those who have observed the disruptive force of information technology elsewhere wonder why it hasn’t penetrated healthcare effectively. Hence the constant idea and technology arbitrage.

Most internet users are probably aware that online group scheduling services are free. Choices are plenty (Google Calendar, Tungle, TimeBridge, Jiffle, Doodle to name a few) and they are all very good. So what does healthcare need that can’t be fulfilled by these companies? Consider it from two perspectives: inpatient and outpatient.

Outpatient scheduling is more aligned with the services described above. The need is for patients and providers to coordinate a mutually convenient appointment time. But usually patients already know their provider by the time they are trying to find an appointment (e.g. they’ve called the insurance company or the doctor’s office). So finding an appointment time is just a short conversation away. The real value proposition is when patients are still open to picking a provider. That’s when such consumer-oriented outpatient scheduling services are really worth using. ZocDoc does this.

On the inpatient side the need is for a enterprise-grade, rules-based scalable system that integrates with various existing healthcare information systems. To figure out what is the most suitable appointment time for a patient coming in for knee replacement, the scheduling department needs to know the status of radiology/lab reports, clinical resource availability, OR schedule etc. Even just scheduling in-house clinical staff is often an insurmountable and complicated task. For example, YourNurseIsOn is s start-up specifically focused on the nurse scheduling and communication.

Docmein may not be there yet, but scheduling in healthcare delivery systems is definitely a problem waiting to be solved.