Whenever I write about health care policy at ZDNet Healthcare one demand comes from readers loud-and-clear.
People want price transparency. They want to know what things cost. They want doctors to compete the way everyone else does.
That's what PriceDoc is starting to offer, and it's going national.
PriceDoc launched earlier this year, using Seattle as a test market. It's now soliciting doctors nationwide to list their prices for $49/year$49/month, aiming to sign up 10,000 by the end of the year and then "turning on the spigot" with a little consumer advertising in 30 major markets.
NOTE ON CORRECTION: All doctors are listed free. The $49 fee covers their filing of profiles with credentials, descriptions of specific services, listing prices, and participating in special offers. The company is looking to reduce or eliminate the fee in the future.
Patrick Bradley is the CEO. "We can deliver new cash-paying patients. Physicians love cash-paying patients."
While the focus in Washington is the health insurance market, expanding it or controlling its costs, Bradley says there is already a $200 billion cash market for health care. It's not just the uninsured, but patients who may lack specific coverage for their teeth, their eyes, or for alternative treatments like chiropractic.
Buyers in this market want very much to know how much something will cost before they get it done. PriceDoc delivers.
In the PriceDoc model doctors sign up to show their qualifications and specialties, and are encouraged to post prices for common procedures.
Initial reaction from doctors was mixed. "Some are very big believers in transparency. Others are more reluctant to post prices. They want patients to call them. What we're finding is those who are getting called for a price decide to post prices, knowing they'll get more hits." Play the game by the rules and you can win.
The current site is organized with folders, but Bradley has already seen the future and has a patent pending on a bidding system.
"You search out a provider, and if they have a posted price you can make a counter offer. That online negotiation and verification is covered in the patent."
Even without direct bidding, PriceDoc has had one big impact on price. Bradley calls it the PriceDoc special price.
"We post those at the top of the page. It is a price for a procedure with a special condition. An orthodontist may post a special price for a specific time of day. You come in between 10-2 I'll give you a better deal." Airlines call this yield management.
So if you're uninsured, or just not insured for a specific procedure or discipline you need (you want nice acupuncture, Mister?) you should soon be able to give PriceDoc a whirl.
And we'll find out if the claim that transparency lowers prices is right.