DealWell: A Site For Health Care Bargain Hunters | KERA News

DealWell: A Site For Health Care Bargain Hunters

Jul 9, 2013

You already search online for deals on things like plane tickets and hotels -- so why not an MRI or sonagram? That’s the premise of DealWell.com, a site that’s created a marketplace for health and wellness services.

When Cynthia Pierro needed an MRI a few months ago, she didn’t pick up her phone to call a doctor. She went online to search for a deal.  

“I’ve had MRI’s in the past and they’re usually over a thousand dollars,” she says, “and here was one for right around 400 dollars.”

That was the first time Pierro, who is from Flower Mound, used the new site called Dealwell.com. It’s like a Priceline for medical services. On the site, you type in your zip code to find a list of providers near you offering services like an eye exam, a teeth cleaning, or a massage or a spa treatment.

Geoff Fischer, who worked at Microsoft for nearly a decade, is president and co-founder of the Dallas startup.

“It’s crazy that it’s 2013 and for so many things in the health and wellness category, you go in, you have the procedure and you come out and they hand you a bill and that’s the first time you find out about the price,” Fischer says.

DealWell shows you prices up front, allows you to compare providers, read reviews, even bid on services. Fischer, who worked at Microsoft for nearly a decade, says there’s no reason we shouldn’t hunt for deals on an ultrasound like we would on gas, milk, or eggs.

Bidding On Dental Care

In just over a year, DealWell has closed thousands of deals, and Fischer has convinced two hundred health providers across North Texas to pay a monthly fee for a spot on the site. For Floss Dental in Dallas, joining  “was kind of a no brainer,” says Anna Phillips, who runs marketing for Floss Dental.

DealWell has sent Floss Dental about 75 customers since they went on the site a few months ago, for everything from Invisalign to teeth whitening.

“We’re just happy to have traffic from the site,” Phillips says. “If we get a couple of patients a month, we’re getting a return on our investment.”

Floss Dental wouldn't reveal how much it pays per month to be on the site, but Phillips says DealWell is better for business than other daily deal sites like Groupon because Floss Dental isn’t bombarded with hoards of people trying to cash in on a time limited coupon. The deals don't expire, or disappear.

Finding Deals On Weight Loss Surgery

Dirk Rodriguez has been a doctor for thirty years and done more than 8,000 weight loss surgeries. Now, in addition to being on Facebook, Youtube and digital billboards, he’s on DealWell.

“I wanted to use it as a possible springboard for exposure of my name maybe reaching out to other folks a different way.”

DealWell.com has more than 900 offers from local doctors and providers in everything from massage therapy to eye surgery. Dr. Dirk Rodriguez, pictured here, is a surgeon who has performed thousands of weight loss operations.
Credit DealWell.com

He knows going on a site like DealWell is a bit risky, and didn’t want to cheapen his services.

“I didn’t want it to seem like it was a giveaway, I didn’t want them to think it was a buy-one-get-one-free thing this is not it – it is a big ticket item and it’s a major surgery,” Rodriguez says.

So, he’s offering free, 90-minute consultations to start out with. So far, no one has come in to redeem a service through DealWell.

Trying To Build Trust

Dealsites like DealWell.com have become more popular, but David E. Williams, president of the Health Business Group in Boston, isn’t a big fan.

“I do think it is a little sleazy, if that’s not too strong of a word,” he says. “I don’t think this is like a hotel that is offering a bargain because they happen to have some empty rooms available. I think if there’s a deal to be offered they should just offer it on the site.”

Williams, who has been following online health shopping for years, says services not covered by insurance, like teeth whitening and massage therapy, have the best chance of succeeding on DealWell.

“There’s a shrinking number of people who will have some means to pay and still won’t have insurance, because most people will have Medicaid or insurance under the Affordable Care Act, so I think it will shrink the number of uninsured, self-pay patients who are able to pay,” he says.

Even if DealWell doesn’t become the primary way people shop for physicians or health care, DealWell CEO Geoff Fischer says more people will be looking for deals online to use money they’ve put aside in health savings or flexible spending accounts, which are becoming more popular.

Besides, Fischer says Dealwell is working hard to establish trust with customers.  DealWell is providing photos of providers online even vetting the certifications of every provider to make sure they’re licensed.

“If we do a good job on the site, I think there’s a number of people who will be comfortable,” Fischer says. “And I think it’s the wave of the future.”

Dealwell isn’t stopping with Lasik and bariatric surgery. Fischer says they’re looking at expanding into urgent care, as well as things like school physicals. So after you finish bargain hunting for a new backpack this summer, you might be able to find a deal on to vaccines.