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5 Minutes With a Visionary: Cyrus Massoumi

Thursday, 21 Jun 2012 | 1:56 PM ET

Editor’s note: As part of CNBC’s “20 Under 20: Transforming Tomorrow” TV documentary, we interviewed thought leaders and visionaries who have paved the way for the next generation of entrepreneurs. In a series of Q&As called “5 Minutes with a Visionary,” we discover what has shaped and molded the careers of these innovators. This interview, with Cyrus Massoumi, was conducted via email.

Cyrus Massoumi
Photo: Cyrus Massoumi
Cyrus Massoumi

Cyrus Massoumi created ZocDoc in 2007 because, as he told CNBC, he “felt the pain — both literally and figuratively — of the health-care system’s flaws.” After waiting four days to see a doctor for a ruptured eardrum, he knew he wanted to find a way to use technology to change this experience.

ZocDoc, which allows you to book a doctor’s appointment online in almost 20 cities in the U.S., now employs over 300 people and has 1.3 million unique visitors each month. Massoumi has says he believes that there are many ways the company can improve the health-care system on a macro level.

Q: What do you consider to be your greatest success as a technology/health-care innovator?

I take great pride in working with my team to build a company that’s empowering people to take control of their health. Every day, we hear from people whose care has been vastly improved and expedited by ZocDoc; from a woman who was experiencing painful pregnancy complications in a snowstorm and was able to see a doctor right away, to a man who was hearing impaired and unable to use the phone and scheduled his own doctor’s appointment for the first time. These individual stories are just two of many, and they motivate me and my team every single day.

Q: What innovation in the last 20 years has had the most positive impact on society?

Genome mapping is a fascinating innovation that has the potential to make a major impact on the future of our collective health, prevention and treatment. In the past few years, scientists and entrepreneurs have found ways to offer a form of genome screening at a lower the cost to the individual. Advances like these will continue to dramatically revolutionize the way society approaches preventative health, and I can't wait to see how it affects longevity and quality of life for patients.

Q: What current challenge, when resolved, would do the most to change the world?

The world has a lot of unsolved problems, but the one I think about the most, and believe would have tremendous impact if solved, is access to health care. This is something we're working on improving every day at ZocDoc. As the saying goes, if you don't have your health, you don't have anything.

Q: If you had the world's intellectual elite all in one room, what question would you pose for debate?

How can we collectively expedite affordable access to health care globally?

Q: What individual or innovator has had the biggest impact on your career?

There are many brilliant individuals — both famous and obscure — that I greatly respect, admire, and draw inspiration from. Some of them have even invested in ZocDoc. However, the person who had the biggest impact on my career choice is my father. I saw through his eyes how the changes in our health-care system over the past three decades have made it more and more difficult for physicians to manage their practices. Given reduced reimbursement rates, physicians have to see increasingly more patients. Without the first-hand knowledge I got from my father, I don’t think I would have fully understood the need that ZocDoc fills with physicians, and this was key to ZocDoc’s early success.

Q: What was your mindset in creating ZocDoc? What did you ultimately want to accomplish?

I started ZocDoc after experiencing the frustration of not being able to see a doctor when I needed one despite knowing that there were doctors out there, nearby, who had last-minute availability and wanted to see me. I was motivated to find a way to bridge this gap.

With ZocDoc, we envision a world where patients can land at an airport anywhere in the world and book an appointment before they’re off the plane. That’s our goal right now, and we believe there are a lot of ways we can improve the health-care system on a macro level, and empower individuals to take better care of themselves. I enjoy working at it every day.

Editor's Note: This interview has been condensed and edited.

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