Priceline for plastic surgery is a bad idea

Tom at RealSelf on 17 Mar 2009 at 3:09pm

When one of our medical experts mentioned receiving a solicitation to advertise with a startup called PriceDoc.com -- think Priceline for elective medical services-- I was surprised to discover that doctors worked with the PriceDoc team. I wondered how they rectified the daunting ethical implications of their model, which matches consumers with low price providers of medical services.

Coming from the online travel industry and a key competitor to Priceline, I hold great respect for the way Priceline brings value to cost-conscious consumers and revenue optimizing suppliers. They've changed travel in a positive way for all parties. While commoditizing hotel rooms may present marketing challenges to brand managers, it has no implication on a person's long-term health and safety (unless you've stayed at one of these hotels).

pricedoc offers a priceline-like service for finding a doctor for elective medical services

A bidding model for elective medical procedures does have implications on a person's health and well-being. 

Perhaps lost on PriceDoc when they chose the tagline "Better Price + Better Healthcare" is that they can't deliver on this promise by operating a lowest-bidder-gets-the-patient model. 

I've personally read thousands of bad plastic surgery outcomes and cosmetic treatment experiences that people shared on RealSelf.com. I know with a high degree of certitude that bargain nose jobs or lasik procedures are not in the patient's best interest. These price driven decisions end up introducing risks that unsuspecting patients discover only when it's too late.  

But don't take my word, just ask a person blinded by a discount Lasik provider. You get what you pay for in medical care, just like you do in nearly all high value-added services.

It turns out that medical training and standards of practice actually matter, as does board certification. PriceDoc blurs the significance of these credentials and undermines the process of educating consumers that not all doctors are qualified or properly trained to offer the services they promote to consumers.

Comments (9)

As a RN with 30 years experience on medical surgical floors I have seen a fair amount of botched jobs on unsuspecting patients. Most patients have no idea if their surgery was done by a butcher or a highly skilled physician....Credentials do not tell the whole story! How about a history of excellent work that follows the doctor during his career. Word of mouth perhaps? The ones threatened by PriceDoc will be the providers fearful of losing money, that is all. Medicine is ALL about money...bottom line.
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My health is not the same as an airline ticket. I can see where I'm sitting and where I'm going and that's pretty much the whole picture. Not the same as if someone's cutting into my face. RealSelf is about information and I like that. I have seen doctors disagree here and I like that. It's not just about which doc is cheapest. It's the whole picture and you can't get that from any one website (including RealSelf). PriceDoc claiming to be masters of the whole process is bad. Their whole model is based on sales so they're going to be biased towards pushing me into something I may or may not need. If I'm jsut there for inforation, I'm not their kind of customer already. Their docs are not going to pay monthly fees for the privilege of informing me. I wouldn't buy medical services from any website, ever. Kudos to RealSelf for stating the obv. in order to protect us.
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Take it easy on Tom. I think his website is incredibly helpful. I also think that high pricing doesn't guarantee good results. I paid $6,500 for upper & lower eyelid surgery, and now am stuck with bad results.
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Well, I hope to proven wrong in this case. I think you can help them steer the ship toward quality physicians; it's just awfully tempting to take money from the first person with a credit card. Best of luck.
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I came across your website while I was researching cosmetic surgery for my girlfriend. While your website is informative, your blog is very vitriolic in tone. You seem to spend time and energy on pointing out faults with other websites and companies in your industry. As a result, I am a bit confused as a user about what you are trying to accomplish with your website. I actually visited www.pricedoc.com and founded to be to the point and informative. Your own Q&A section reveals that prices range from region to region and one of Doctors suggested calling offices for pricing on Botox. Anyway, as an internet user that is confronted with tons of websites like yours I would suggest that you stay within your bounds and don't be so opinioned about what you think is appropriate or not in the medical realm. I think you are providing a good service; however, since you are not an expert, you lost your credibility with me.
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Realself blog missed the point and the novelty of Pricedoc. A site that offers qualification transparency, patient feedback, pricing transparency with option of direct negotiation is a welcome step. The nation has been screaming for quality and pricing transparency from healthcare. When a site like Pricedoc tries to deliver such online features it gets trashed by those resistant to new paradigm shifts. There are many doctors who are prepared to deal directly with patient in need of care, do not fear qualification and outcomes transparency, and are prepared to offer pricing breaks to patients in need of such breaks. The perception that if it costs more it must be better is an old adage that has been milked by unscrupulous practitioners. If your services are better than show it to the public and the outcomes will support your higher price. Pricedoc seems to do just that, an open medical society where doctors compete with each other based on quality and price for the patient who is empowered to choose their provider and negotiate the price. It is exactly such an open system as the Pricedoc site is pioneering that will attract the “cream” of medical community who can deliver quality care at competitive price. It is the “bottom of the barrel” providers who will shy away from qualification transparency and pricing disclosure. Kudos for Pricedoc for making a change in the old way of doing business, Boo for Realself blogger who missed the novelty and the imminent shift in health care.
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I don't think the implication here is that consumers are helpless and uneducated, but rather that consumers don't need one more business model that promotes saving a few bucks over going through a thorough consultation process with multiple relevantly credentialed and qualified physicians.
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I see from Dr. Khoodbedi's website that he offers a free consultation for potential patients who see his website and mention it. Does this make him, also, a "bottom dweller"? It is up to us as consumers to do due diligience and research to make sure that the healthcare provider we go to has the credentials and the skill. Although PriceDoc does seem to offer a service to the lowest bidder, there also seems to be a way for educated consumers to choose the physician of their choice and just make an offer to them and them alone. It seems that is is assumed most consumers are helpless and uneducated, which I beg to differ.
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I believe that this concept is not compatible with ethical and professional standards of the board certified plastic surgeon.
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