WOULD YOU BUY A CAR—or even a beer—if you didn’t know its price? Probably not. But if you use the American health care system, chances are you’ve made exactly that kind of blind leap. The medical industry makes basic consumer information harder to parse than a Wikileaks cable. Meanwhile, the morass of MRIs, PPOs, and HMOs leaves many people wondering, “WTF?”
This state of affairs opens the way for ZoomCare, a fast-growing local chain of urgent and primary-care clinics. The Hillsboro-based company was founded in 2006 by David Sanders and Albert DiPiero, midwestern doctors who were University of Michigan roommates in the ’80s. Together they launched two earlier health care technology companies. But their true innovation may be their brick-and-mortar operation.
ZoomCare does not release financial information. But in five years, Sanders and DiPiero have opened seven sleek clinics across the Portland area, with an aesthetic that leans more Apple Store than doctor’s waiting room. A North Mississippi Avenue location will open this summer, and a Seattle expansion is in the works. The good doctors/entrepreneurs now employ more than 80 people—including about 30 docs and RNs.
“We think of our clients as customers, not patients,” says Sanders. In practice, that means a lean, service-on-demand model. Clients visit ZoomCare’s easily navigated website or call its hotline to choose a location and sign up for appointment times broken down to 15-minute intervals. They don’t know which doctor or nurse they’ll see—but they do know when they’ll be in and out.
“Our customers are looking for world-class conveniences,” DiPiero says.
On that note, ZoomCare will soon implement a new payment system, OnePrice. All visits will cost $99 for those paying out of pocket, $129 for the insured. This differs markedly from the prevailing system, in which providers and insurance companies deliver price tags—often a surprise—in the mail at a later date.
ZoomCare’s approach may seem a bit Starbucksian to those who cherish a long-term relationship with a doctor. But though they haven’t found a cure for the nation’s health care woes, Sanders and DiPiero have discovered something: people who want (or need) a faster, simpler care, priced à la carte.