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Jul. 8, 2014 7:49 am

Compared Care helps patients price-shop for medical procedures

The price-transparency startup, which entered beta in June, allows patients to search medical costs before going under the knife. "It's just backwards in health care," said founder Ethan Steininger.

(Photo by Flickr user @proimos, used under a Creative Commons license)

Ethan Steininger’s friend’s father recently needed a major surgery. The operation put him $40,000 in debt.

“We did some research and found the man in France who wrote the book on this surgery was charging like $4,000,” he said.

That’s where the University of Maryland, Baltimore County alum got the idea for his new startup, Compared Care. The service, in short, is like Expedia for finding medical professionals.

“Honestly, it’s just backwards in health care,” Steininger said, likening it to being taken on a tour of an apartment and signing the lease before being told how much rent will be. “You don’t know what you’re getting [charged] until after you get it.”

(Screenshot via ComparedCare.com)

A screenshot of a Compared Care search.

Using crowdsourced data of practitioners and out-of-pocket prices, Steininger’s website (which entered beta in June) maps providers based on a search for a particular service and lists their average out-of-pocket cost and user ratings.

It’s similar to other price-transparency startups, including the New York-based Clear Health Costs.

Compared Care’s cost data is compiled by anonymous user submissions of procedure, provider, insurance and cost information for providers. The average numbers are being skewed in some cases by Medicare and Medicaid patients, who have lower out of pocket costs, and Steininger says he and technical developer Brandon Walsh are working to filter those in the future.

And though the site allows users to search by procedure and doctor, it doesn’t let users search by discipline (for example, you can search “eye exam” but not “optometrist”). Steininger says that feature is also in the works. But for the most part, it’s niche providers he says his business is targeting.

“All these specialties aren’t covered by insurance,” he said. “We’re B2C, but our lifeblood is B2B. Once we get a strong influx of users, then it’ll be in [practitioners'] best interests to fill out their profile page.”

Compared Care has no investors so far. Its only funding so far was a $2,000 prize attached to a second-place win in the Cangialosi Business Innovation Competition in April. That also came with a six-month complimentary membership in Betamore. Steininger and Walsh aren’t drawing paychecks, he said, though Steininger said he is talking to prospective partners and two incubators in Washington and New York City as he figures out his next step. One long-term goal is to launch a mobile app.

“Being in the marketplace really helps, from a marketing standpoint,” he said. “That’s a good idea to have, but it’s in the distance.”

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Tyler Waldman

Tyler Waldman is lead reporter for Technical.ly Baltimore. A Towson University graduate and former local editor for Patch.com, Tyler has also written and photographed for publications including the Baltimore Brew, Howard County Times and Towson Times. He lives in Charles Village.

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