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When Puneet Maheshwari’s two-year-old son was sick on a family vacation to Florida last February, he found himself wondering, “What if there was a place where I could book a doctor’s appointment over the Internet anywhere, without even having to call?”

Instead, he spent five hours waiting in an emergency room, contemplating a very expensive and potentially unnecessary bill.

A few months later, Maheshwari received his MBA from Wharton and founded DocAsap, a website with the vision of “getting the right doctor at the right time,” said Anuja Rathi, the site’s chief executive.

DocAsap, which went public last August, allows users to search for immediate appointments, with the possibility of seeing a doctor within the same day.

The website currently has about 350 patients registered, who have made 200 appointments since the site’s founding, according to Rathi. It serves Philadelphia, Atlantic City, N.J., and Washington, D.C.

It includes search options by time of appointment, location, insurance provider and reason for visit, although there are no options for government-subsidized health care, such as Medicaid and Medicare.

Maheshwari cited the innovation tournament class he took with Wharton professor Karl Ulrich as the main resource that “helped me to convert a problem I experienced myself into a business plan,” he wrote in an e-mail.

After the idea for DocAsap placed in the final eight of a business plan competition last spring, he joined the Wharton Venture Initiation Program to support the website’s creation and launch.

While the site’s specialities are currently limited to dentistry, primary care and psychiatry, Rathi said the company is hoping to diversify its offerings and reach 300 practitioners by the middle of this year.

“It’s unlikely that all patients will use an online service, but in times of technology, more people are starting to operate this way,” said Dawn Simpson, the practice administrator for Gilbert Dental Care, one of the first practices that registered with the service. The practice has seen about three patients per month from DocAsap since September 2009.

She said the majority of patients who used the website to book an appointment are young, white-collar professionals, a few of whom are doctors themselves.

Those patients were “a bit more fragile,” she said. “They don’t come in with the same feeling of goodwill and commitment” as patients who received personal recommendations and seemed to place convenience as their top priority for seeing a provider.

According to Rathi, the site’s founders first thought that the service would be used for “semi-urgent” appointments that needed immediate care, but not emergency room visits. “To our surprise, we see a lot of appointments booked for annual checkups as well,” she said.

“This was a true test and application of my business education,” Maheshwari wrote in an e-mail. “My most meaningful experience at Wharton was incubating DocAsap on a shoestring budget and rolling it out in Philadelphia.”

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