Marketizing dentist appointments

I just tried to make a dentist appointment and it sucked. There are never any available slots when I want them, and it is even more frustrating because I know that many of the people reserving those slots are going to end up canceling or not showing up.

This is because all appointment slots costs the same, and in this case the cost is $0. Note that I am talking about the slot and not the actual service you get once you are in the chair. Anytime the costs of something is too low, people will waste it and there will not be enough supply.

The dentist currently crudely compensates for this by overbooking slots, which means I usually have to wait when I show up on time for my appointment

Slots should cost money.

The dentist should figure out how much a slot costs him – that is, how much is does it cost for him to have the office open and all the people and equipment ready in case I do show up for my slot. He should sell the slot for more than is costs him. This way, he is happy if show up or not. Now no-shows become a profit center rather than a hassle.

It is likely that some slots should initially cost more than others. It takes an hour to drive in from New Jersey at 8AM, but only 20 minutes at 10AM, so 8AM slots should be priced high enough to reflect the higher cost of providing them. Then people buying the slots will implicitly tell the dentist if it is worth it for him to sit in traffic on any given day. Some dentists and staff might even be willing (happy?) to work though lunch hour if they were getting paid double.  Right now there is no feedback to the dentist about how to efficiently schedule his time to best balance his preferences and those of his patients.

Slots should also be transferable.

Tuesday afternoons are normally very popular and slots then so might cost $200. I buy one for a month from now, but as the date approaches I see that it is going to rain that day. I offer to sell my slot for $100 and take the loss, while someone who lives close to the dentists gets to pick up my choice slot that otherwise would have been to expensive for them.

The dentist might sometimes even want to buy back his own slots in the secondary market. If I have the only sold slot on a Friday afternoon, it might be worth it for the dentist to buy that slot back from me for double what I paid for it so that he can head out to the Hamptons at lunch time.

You can easily imagine websites to facilitate both the initial sales and the secondary market for these slots.Heck, there might even be derivatives markets where you could buy and sell options on slots.

All this would work for restaurant reservations too.

UPDATE 12/2/2014:

New company doing this!…

View story at Medium.com

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