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Free market enterprise is daily finding more of a home in the healthcare industry.  Of recent note are moves by Microsoft and Google to become big players in the personal health record (PHR) market, but it’s not just the big guns that are bringing consumer-friendly tools into the heart of medical practice operations.

The Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative blog posted recently about an innovative approach to the online scheduling of physician and dentist appointments using a tool very similar to the type commonly used to make restaurant reservations online.

The market won’t stand still. While a bunch of us are futzing around with patient portals, PHRs, patient kiosks, and other tools to add convenience to health care delivery, along comes ZocDoc (http://www.zocdoc.com/) which allows online scheduling of physician and dentist appointments for participating providers. Physicians pay for the service and it’s free to patients.

Online scheduling has been around on the web for awhile. Booking tickets, for example, for everything from movies to airplanes. And www.opentable.com allows free restaurant reservation booking in a number of cities. Like opentable, Zocdoc also allows patients to review their physicians on the site.