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CoPatient Gets New CEO, Looks to Expand in Consumer Health Billing

Xconomy Boston — 

There comes a time in many a startup’s life when it needs to hire a more experienced chief executive. That time is now for CoPatient, a Boston healthcare IT company that helps people manage and negotiate their medical bills.

CoPatient said today it has appointed Tom Torre as CEO. He was previously the founder and CEO of Alegeus Technologies, a healthcare and benefits payments company that spun out of FIS Global.

Torre (pictured) says in an e-mail that CoPatient “will implement new products and services that will expand our reach in helping consumers manage their healthcare expenses.” The company isn’t giving specifics yet, but the idea is to support patients throughout their healthcare experience. “I am excited by what CoPatient is doing and my ability to make a difference in the organization,” Torre says.

The 15-person company currently offers a Web- and mobile-based service to review patients’ medical bills. You can upload photos of your bills to the site, and CoPatient sends you back a one-page summary of what it thinks you could save. Pretty much everyone can relate to confusing hospital bills—and the feeling that you’re being charged too much, or that insurance should cover more of the bill.

If CoPatient’s team of advocates thinks you have a case, it identifies any billing issues, figures out how the prices stack up to industry benchmarks, and handles the negotiation with providers and insurance. It charges a fee if the process is successful. So far the company says it has saved consumers $1 million-plus since launching the service in 2014. (I submitted two bills earlier this year, and CoPatient found them to be roughly correct—which was still useful to me, and there was no charge for the assessment.)

CoPatient was founded in 2012 by Athenahealth veterans Rebecca Palm and Katie Vahle. The company initially raised a seed round and moved to Portland, OR, to be near a strategic investor, Cambia Health Solutions. CoPatient moved back to Boston in December 2013 and raised a $3.6 million Series A round from investors including .406 Ventures, Cambia, and Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush.

I met with Palm early this year, when her company was working on a number of partnerships and looking to connect with more healthcare organizations. The great advantage of CoPatient, she said, was that “we look at the whole billing scenario from the patient’s perspective instead of looking at each individual bill.” That gives the company a big leg up on your standard health plan’s customer service representative.

CoPatient seems to provide a much-needed service. The question is whether it can automate enough of the billing review process, use software to lower its costs, and find enough valid cases to start making more money. We’ll be watching over the next few months to see what new products it rolls out.

To that end, Torre’s job is to expand CoPatient’s presence in the market. Citing a report from Aite Group, he says that “there will be nearly $400 billion dollars in payments made by consumers to providers this year.” His big goal with the company, then, will be “to enable consumers to better manage this increasing healthcare financial obligation.”