Will People Bid Online for a Nose Job Just Like an Airline Ticket? PriceDoc Thinks So

5/11/10Follow @xconomy

If PriceDoc has its way, masses of people will go online to bid for routine medical and dental procedures a lot like airline tickets. Find a doc near your house. Agree on the price for a nose job. Pay the doc in cash.

This is a simple idea with appeal to many doctors and patients, but as best I can tell at this point, it has probably generated more buzz than business. Still, I figured it was worth a closer look and so I spoke recently with Pat Bradley, the company’s president and chief operating officer.

PriceDoc‘s executives are in Solana Beach, CA, (about 22 miles north of San Diego) although its sales and marketing team and most of its customers are in Seattle, Bradley says. The company says it has raised $7.5 million in seed capital, hired a team of 17 employees, and gone to work building a directory of more than 3,100 healthcare providers who are willing to accept straight-up cash payments without any health insurer middleman getting involved. Patients get more transparency, by being able to tell upfront how much a set of, say, new dental braces will cost, and dentists arguably save a lot of time and money by reducing hassles.

Anyone following U.S. politics this year knows that millions of people don’t have health insurance, and the market for all these uninsured people, and more who lack adequate dental insurance, is huge. It’s estimated at about $265 billion a year, a little more than one-tenth of the total $2.5 trillion annual healthcare market, Bradley says. By bringing more transparency to the cash-only side of medicine, PriceDoc figures, it can bring great efficiencies to both doctors and patients, and make money by facilitating the process.

Pat Bradley

Pat Bradley

“There’s a huge cash business in healthcare that a lot of people don’t realize is there,” Bradley says.

PriceDoc has certainly generated more than its share of attention for a two-year-old startup. Its website shows how it has been featured on local TV news reports, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal. Where I live in Seattle, the company’s service has been featured locally on Q13, and KING5.

The stories tend to play up all the potential benefits of such a service for consumers, providing a real PR coup. But I was more interested in the PriceDoc business story. The company was co-founded by Glenn Safadago, who was the chief marketing officer until he left the company a few months ago, Bradley says. Bradley is a former vice president of business development at CardioDynamics, which was acquired last year by SonoSite (NASDAQ: SONO). William Chadwick, an investment banker, is the company’s chairman and CEO. PriceDoc isn’t naming any of its investors, although there are about 30 of them, who are wealthy individuals “who see the problems in healthcare,” Bradley says.

The idea is that doctors are fed up with spending as much as half of all their expenses begging, fighting and pleading with insurers to get reimbursed. While most people aren’t about to start paying … Next Page »

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  • M. Ellis

    We’ve always told our kids not to be cheap about doctors, lawyers and prostitutes. I don’t think I want the lowest bidder for plastic surgery.

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  • M. Stephenson

    M. Ellis, I have no problem with that. But “not [being] cheap” may not apply when SOMEONE ELSE is paying for the procedure! Look, if I want braces on my teeth, I’m gonna ask how much it costs…

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  • Joe

    I don’t think this will work in the log run. While I like saving money on healthcare, I have insurance, I don’t want to see healthcare reduced to biding and aggressive discounting on a website. Perhaps clothes, shoes, travel, its fine. But healthcare is an emotional buy and I will never use this website as a patient.

  • Matt

    I visited this website and found little or no evidence of bidding on procedures. So if this is not taken place, they either have a difficult time in convincing providers to engage in this approach, or the online healthcare bidding just does not work. Anyway, let the market decide. I don’t believe this website will be sustainable in the long run. This is not a very compelling service….I can call a provider and negotiate with them. Another startup..it’s fun to track the process…

  • Paul

    this website needs some work…even their blog lack the interaction, most topics have no comments. Is this a nationwide site? Usually these sites are run by technical people or too young to understand and run a business. Good luck!

  • Maggie

    I agree with the comment regarding not being cheap when it comes to physicians. I don’t understand why this such company pricedoc does not have more information regarding the physician professional background history. The information they do have comes from the physician and makes you wonder how much of it is hype-reliable.

    Patients want two things:
    1. They want to see the best of the best physicians/experts regarding their condition or surgical procedure or,
    2. They want to find-out everything (credentials & background) regarding a physician/surgeon they will be seeing.

    I think sites like healthgrades.com, choicetrust.com and mdnationwide.org do very well regarding my opinion of 1 and 2.

    That’s my two cents.

    Maggie