Mebik puts social networking to work against medical costs

The folks behind Mebik are hoping that by making people aware of medical costs this will drive prices down.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

Mebik hopes to make medical costs more transparent with the power of social networking.

The site launched this morning. The company is based in Kirkland, Wash., the brainchild of former Microsoft and Amazon executives (with a little Costco in their hearts).

Here's how it works. Input the numbers on your latest bill, and the type of procedure you had. Click submit and you will see how your price measures up against local and national averages.

Or just enter what you want done and get the data that's already there.

Right now the site supports just one vertical, dentistry. But it does a good enough job with that to give you some indication how things will fit together over time.

The home page knows where you're coming from, and lists both dentists in your area as well as telling you whether you're overpaying for a variety of common procedures. It claims an ability to translate between billing codes and simple English, so just type in what you know and it will tell you what it knows.

A spokesperson admits the initial business model, advertising, is also just an interim step. Longer term they are looking to partner with insurance companies and medical providers who will give their customers access to the Web site.

In addition to riding on the social networking craze (the user interface is very clean and cool) the site also supports price transparency, the market's primary response to government action against health care costs. It claims to support recommendations from the American College of Physicians for such sites:

  • Price transparency is an admirable goal.
  • The methods used to assure it should be transparent, with protections to assure validity.
  • Presentation of prices should be clearly understood and reflect limitations in the method.

The spokesperson admits that not all specialties are subject to the benefits of price transparency. Ambulances still have "intravenous permission" to sell you blood and life-saving drugs without your involvement in the price discussion.

But she offered the example of Lasik surgery. "It started out being incredibly high cost. Because the price was transparent, it went down and quality went up. It was an absolute benefit."

The folks behind Mebik are hoping that by making people aware of costs this will drive prices down.

Give it a spin.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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