This week Health in Reach announced that it would be merging with its largest competitor, PriceDoc. Both services offer an online platform where consumers can go to compare prices on dental, vision and elective medical services, and also get cost-saving deals and online booking and management of appointments. Both companies will now operate under the Health in Reach corporate brand, and Health in Reach CEO Scott Sangster will remain in the top executive role.
Sangster told BetaKit in an interview that the merger just made sense from the perspective of both companies, owing to their mutual goals. “Both Health in Reach and PriceDoc have been around for several years, and we’ve been head-to-head competitors,” he said. “Over the course of the last year, both teams realized that the opportunity we’re both pursuing is large, and requires a scale that would take us independently far longer to reach [than was possible alone]. We met, and within about an hour, realized that our visions and philosophies about consumer-directed healthcare were aligned.”
When Sangster says that the opportunity is large, he isn’t kidding. Americans spend about $2.5 trillion annually on healthcare, after all, and over $100 billion total per year on dental care. The impetus to get the best possible deal on procedures, especially those not covered under insurance plans, is understandably high as a result. Sangster said that that’s exactly what Health in Reach found out, after initially trying to sell itself primarily as a scheduling service and finding that the deals and upfront pricing transparency were what really drew in users.
“Obviously patients appreciate the convenience of [online scheduling], but we find that being able to save them money is what’s most compelling,” he said. “Before people start thinking about how to make an appointment, they have to decide whether they’re going to make an appointment at all.”
Health in Reach helps customers with this part by providing them with a clear idea of what they’ll pay up front, and by encouraging doctors to offer deals to patients willing to book and lock in a price up front. Especially for people who’ll be paying cash out-of-pocket, Sangster said that offering a price break can really increase the likelihood that customers will book at all, and follow through on the appointment.
While this merger will help Health in Reach expand nationally in the U.S., Sangster said the company is also looking at its potential viability in other international markets, including Canada, where patients share a lot of the same concerns about elective care despite enjoying universal health coverage for many essential procedures.
Medical costs are a key expense that people often don’t budget for, and Health in Reach is now in a better position to take advantage of price sensitivity in this key market. It’ll be interesting to see if this area heats up further as consumers tighten their pursestrings in the face of looming global economic concerns.