The proliferation of high-deductible plans is making consumers more price sensitive. Paying $1,000 or more out of pocket encourages people to shop for healthcare services, whether it's an elective procedure or routine care.
Hospitals are still figuring out how to compete for this self-pay business. Posting prices is a start. But today's tech-savvy patients also want to shop online—whether it's to compare prices and quality or to make the purchase.
One problem for healthcare providers is that they send multiple bills for a single episode of self-pay care. MDSave, which has its roots in Nashville but hires its developers in Silicon Valley, offers providers a way to package their services into a single bundle for purchase online. The company's clients include Catholic Health Initiatives, Ascension Health and Community Health Systems.
The company's technology draws from Medicare billing codes and procedural codes to create an appropriate rate to charge for a single episode of care or bundled service. The bundle combines the fees for the specialist performing the procedure, the facility and all related services such as anesthesiology and radiology.
Health systems can list procedures on MDSave's public website, which provides an online healthcare marketplace for patients to compare prices as well as execute the purchase. MDSave collects payments before the procedure and disburses the revenue to the individual providers involved in the patient's care.
“They had no way to bundle those episodes of care,” said Paul Ketchel, the company's CEO and co-founder. “We looked at the pieces that were impeding the healthcare system. We made healthcare bundles scalable.”
Patients can shop on MDSave for hundreds of procedures, including appendectomies, mammograms and even sleep studies. About 24% of the patient volume comes from surgical procedures, its fastest-growing segment, Ketchel said. “The user of MDSave is anyone with an out-of-pocket medical expense,” he said.
Dr. Timothy Huggins, a gastroenterologist in Weatherford, Texas, has been working with MDSave to offer colonoscopies and endoscopies to uninsured patients, more than 20% of his practice. Patients with worrisome symptoms such as rectal bleeding were waiting six or even 12 months before undergoing the procedure because they were worried about how to pay, said Charita Garner, practice administrator.