Digital technology and the digital ecosystem are helping to drive discount programs for healthcare, a trend that promises to gain even more traction in the 2020s. Even so, the jury is still out on how effective these programs are and will be, though these discounts speak directly to consumer mobile and online preferences, and to general anxieties about the cost of healthcare.
The latest evidence of all this comes from Groupon, the online discount pioneer. Groupon is selling body scans and ultrasounds in a move that highlights the state of modern healthcare, according to a report by NPR. Groupon said it sets the price for a deal based on competition in the area and then takes a large portion of the money. “They take about half. It’s kind of brutal. It’s a tough place to market,” said Sami Beydoun, owner of an imaging practice. “But the way I look at it is you’re getting decent marketing.”
Some in the field think the discounted services are filling a need for those who fall through the insurance gap. For example, there is a Groupon for a $99 mammogram. Brittany Swanson, who works in an imaging center in Atlanta, said these types of services are very popular. Mammograms are typically covered by insurance, and the cost of the screening can vary widely when a person doesn’t have coverage, Swanson said, according to the report.
Groupon is hardly the only digital player out there trying to offer discounts — and, in many cases, trying to bypass insurers and other traditional players in the healthcare space. In fact, PYMNTS recently caught up with Thomas Goetz, chief of research at GoodRx, a prescription marketplace that has put $10 billion back into the pockets of American consumers. The idea is to give them a choice of where to fill and refill those vital prescriptions at the cheapest cost, to learn more about that effort and how to ease the hassles of one of the most frustrating parts of healthcare retail.
“We try to make it simple for consumers,” Goetz said during an interview with Karen Webster — a comment that reflects the larger trend in online and mobile commerce to provide relatively seamless consumer experiences. “We want to make it as straightforward and clear as possible. We literally have billions of prices in our database. The idea is to optimize the best prices for a given drug, depending on the location of the user.”
More broadly, Amazon has gotten into the medication and prescription-delivery game via its acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack. In addition, much attention is focused on solving the last-mile problem of prescription refills, an experience that is often frustrating and full of friction, as PYMNTS has recently explored.
That’s the larger context in which GoodRx is operating, though its mission seems relatively simple (but, perhaps, much more important) compared to other digitally focused prescription efforts directed at consumers. It’s all about operating a marketplace that shows consumers where they can buy what their doctors prescribe at the lowest price — assuming they are willing to pay out of their own pockets (and not rely on their insurance plans), use specific coupons and discount codes, and, perhaps, buy their medications from pharmacies they might not otherwise use.
As for Amazon, it continues to develop and shape its own healthcare offerings — headed toward what some observers expect will be something along the lines of an Amazon Prime of healthcare.
In early 2018, for instance, the company said it had teamed with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway, working jointly through an effort known as Haven (the name was unveiled in March), where the focus is on making affordable medical treatments more accessible. The plans, thus far, are nebulous. The ambition is not, with a horizon that lies beyond cutting healthcare costs for the trio’s 1.2 million employees. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said earlier this year at a Philadelphia convention that Haven’s reach will span well beyond the confines of JPMorgan’s workforce, according to STAT, stating that the consortium wants the public at large to “get better health and reduce the costs.”
Look for many more such moves in the coming months and years as digital players look to seize more opportunities in the massive healthcare space.