Thursday, April 3, 2008

Healthy Competition

I seem to remember my current (now ex) general practitioner screaming at me that I didn't need any other thyroid test than the one he gave me during my annual exam and that if I saw an endocrinologist I would be "throwing my money away". Did I mention the screaming? This is the same guy who said of my frequent chest pains that "the less I thought about them the less severe they would seem" (not what the cardiologist said, by the way).

Why is it so much easier to comparison shop, for say, a new stereo than for a good doctor? Check out the CNN article, "Can the web create shoppers' market for health care?" about a Twin Cities company called "Carol" which is attempting to transform the U.S. health care system by offering a site that lets you compare quality and price for medical services and helps you make appointments. Users click on the part of the body they are interested in having checked out, which leads to various exams and services for that subsection. A results page shows options which range in price for each service. If the user has insurance, they can also type in plan information to estimate out of pocket cost with each particular health provider.

The site generates revenue from the service providers that have signed on to be "tenants" of Carol, so the biggest challenge for them will be getting enough doctors and health plans to participate. And right now they only carry providers in the Twin Cities area, though they are looking to serve a second U. S. market alter this year.

The site has taken criticism from doctors who think that health care is too critical to be left to the usual marketplace. All I have to say to that, is that health care is already left to an unusual marketplace, better likened to a Russian Roulette table. You can search the site without registering (to increase consumer privacy) so why not take a gander? And like me, keep dreaming that they'll come to your area comparing Dental and Vision Care.

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