Love it or hate it, consumerism is impacting the healthcare industry. From the rise of retail clinics and patients reacting to poor care by taking their business elsewhere to patient liaisons, innovators in the healthcare technology space are looking to become the next great disrupter and reap the spoils of success.
In large part, emphasis on disruption and consumerism has led to more price transparency efforts. For example, individuals can now use services like ZocDoc to research, rate, and book doctors. The physician-owned Surgery Center of Oklahoma features clear prices for all its procedures.
The push also dictates the needed for improved customer service. To this degree, ZendyHealth, a Los Angeles-based startup, doubled down on the sentiment sweeping the industry and announced the launch of a “pick-your-price” platform to allow patients to find and book standardized procedures such as CT/MRI scans, dental, orthopedic, and sports medicine services. The kickoff is in collaboration with Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic, a Cedars-Sinai affiliate. The clinic's orthopedists serve as team physicians or consultants to some of Los Angeles' professional sports teams, including the Lakers, the Dodgers, and the Kings.
“From the perspective of the clinic, it’s such an incredible opportunity to work with ZendyHealth who is helping us come into the digital age,” Nina Takenouchi, director of marketing & communications at Kerlan-Jobe Institute, told Healthcare Dive. She stated as healthcare catches up to other industries, she expects the platform to help patients’ care access and manage price expectations. In addition, she hopes Kerlan-Jobe will be seen as forward-thinking and an innovator to consumers.
The platform is still in a pilot stage with eyes on an official launch in “the next few weeks” at the time of this writing. Takenouchi expects the platform’s reach to be driven largely by word-of-mouth. Eventually, she hopes it will be seen as a regular pathway to care for standardized procedures. “That’s really our goal,” she said.
While CT/MRI and sports medicine procedures are the core of the established platform, ZendyHealth recently added LASIK eye surgery to its platform and doesn't have any plans on stopping soon. Dr. Vish Banthia, ZendyHealth’s founder & CMO, told Healthcare Dive they are already looking to add procedures to the platform. He said services/areas they are looking to expand into include colonoscopy, deepening their sports medicine services and other services they identify consumers are looking to make a deal.
In addition, Banthia expects to see a "bid-or-buy-now" function be rolled out for individuals not comfortable with bidding for healthcare, acting as a semi-on-demand feature. "The millennial generation thinks and behaves and purchases differently from the preexisting generations and I think we will see more and more of a shift to consumerism," Banthia said.
Banthia was able to shed light on the platform and where he sees the market going.
Healthcare Dive: Can you explain the platform?
Vish Banthia, ZendyHealth founder: Basically the platform is a direct result of my experiences in my own practice after seeing and living the pains on both the patient and the providers' sides. ZendyHealth is essentially a technology tool that helps empower patients to access standardized care at affordable rates from top providers. This is more and more relevant today because people are paying more and more out of pocket as a result of higher deductibles and all the changes surrounding the health system. As people have to pay more and more out of pocket, they're acting like the typical consumer. Consumers shop every day for goods such as cars and houses and everybody negotiates [prices] in other industries. ZendyHealth allows the ability for patients to do so in an active fashion. We're empowering patients with a platform that I don't think ever existed.
How do you present this model to providers and hospitals?
Banthia: The problem statements that apply to a smaller practice apply to large hospitals. In general throughout the country, hospitals or health systems are seeing that patients have higher deductibles and are negotiating more and as a result some hospital systems are seeing patient leakage and also an increase in bad debt.
Because of this high deductible and out-of-pocket phenomenon, our model can potentially apply and that's one of the reasons we choose to go through the Techstars HealthTech program [in partnership with Cedars-Sinai] to see if we could potentially have a role in these larger health systems that are seeing the same types of issues that providers at a smaller scale are seeing. We know that hospital systems throughout the country are looking to improve utilization and minimize patient leakage as well as bad debt.
What specific trends have you noticed in the industry?
Banthia: More and more employers are moving to high deductible plans or offering them so if you look in 2006, only 4% of employers offered high deductible health plans. Last year was 24% and it's expected to grow to 44% by the end of 2018. So all of the sudden we're going to have tons of patients who are more and more paying out of pocket and they're going to want to have price transparency and price shop like they do in other industries.
Do you foresee a lot of competition in this space?
Banthia: I don't think there's any marketplace that's exactly similar to ours. That being said, there are healthcare marketplaces out there that solve the problem of price transparency and that validates the need for something like [our platform]. Do I expect competition? Yes. With every kind of industry, there's going to be competition where there's a very large market and I think this is a very large market with macro problems. There's going to be room for a lot of players like this.