sprig health logo and slogan

A new entrant in the transparency marketplace is Sprig Health in Portland, Ore.

Sprig’s Web site lets patients book appointments (a la ZocDoc) and also pay up front, at rates that are sometimes startlingly low to those of us who follow prices (and sometimes startlingly high).

“Sprig Health offers discounted rates through a highly efficient model that cuts administrative costs,” the press release announcing the launch says. “Patients book and pre-pay for their visit (via credit card through SprigHealth.com), so there are no claim forms to file, errors to correct, or billing and collection activity. The savings from the company’s ‘no insurance’ model are shared between providers and patients.”

Sprig claims 60 providers and prices 20 to 30 percent below average. The site lists things like a urinalysis from $9 to $13; an urgent-care center visit from $125 to $500; a sports physical from $65 to $350.

The site’s easy to use: Find a service — then book, pay and go. “Like Sprig Health on Facebook to receive special promotions,” the front page says.

Providers’ credentials and addresses are listed clearly — we saw a lot of MD’s and also osteopaths, nurse practitioners, and other non-MD professionals. Dentistry is also offered, as well as naturopathic services like acupuncture and herbal consultations.

Portland is also home to ZoomCare,  which describes itself as “the alternative to the traditional doctor’s office and urgent care,” offering same-day scheduling, one price for all visits and neighborhood convenience.

zoomcare home page info

New to ZoomCare: the Skype visit.

“Not sick enough to come in but need medical help? Try The ZoomCare Skype™ Visit.

“What’s it good for? Sore throat, bladder infections, urinary tract infections, rashes, skin infections, sinusitis, pink eye, sprains, swimmer’s ear, minor headaches, upper respiratory infections, allergies, bronchitis, minor diarrhea, vaginal yeast infections, acne, cold sores.

“What will happen during a Skype™ Visit? You and your Provider will discuss your symptoms and medical history just as if you were in the doctor’s office, and your Provider will discuss treatment options, which may include tests and prescriptions.

“Price? $49.”

Insurance companies won’t pay for a Skype visit, ZoomCare’s site says, adding “stay tuned.”

What’s interesting as a sidelight to me — since I choose doctors and other medical professionals very

carefully — is that the doctor choice process is changing for some people. My choice process includes a lot of asking around (“do you have a good orthopedist/physical therapist/gynecologist?”) because I value friends’ opinions. Then I check participation in my insurance plan, convenience and other factors.

For places like Sprig, ZocDoc, DocAsap (Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Washington) and so on, the choice is a bit different. It seems to me that doesn’t depend on friends’ recommendations, but more on ease of use:  “She’s got a free appointment slot, and it’s convenient — and I know what it will cost. Also I can see what credentials she’s got online.”

It’s a reflection of the fact that people don’t like the current process for finding medical providers and making appointments. (Check out our favorite video on the topic: “If air travel worked like health care.”)

FairCareMD.com is in that space also, in a different way–as is PriceDoc.

These alternative scheduling and payment operations remind us a bit of the traditional urgent-care clinic transformed, and also of places like Gracepointe Health in Franklin, Tenn., which we wrote about not long ago.

It’s a reflection of how the marketplace isn’t working for many people, and how thoughtful people are looking for an alternative.

Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...