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.