Tackling price transparency in Finnish private healthcare

29 May 2017
From idea to execution

1.5 years ago Taru wondered out loud if there were price differences in private healthcare. A month later I received a phone call from her. She was ecstatic saying she wanted to show me something; the first prototype of Lääkärihinta.fi i.e. “doctorprice”, which is an online marketplace for healthcare services.

Lääkärihinta team(1)We began gathering prices from online price lists, calling and even visiting clinics asking them for a price list. In the early days of a startup, you are allowed to do unscalable things, right? Today, we are utilizing open data on pricing and healthcare service providers are incentivized to self-report their price lists.

After two months of prototyping and gathering data, Kristian and Tuomas joined the team. We now had two software developers (Taru & Tuomas), one business developer with a background in both medicine and private dental care (Kristian) and one task-slave (me).

We launched our product during christmas 2015. Three months into 2016, Lääkärihinta had gained so much attention, that three of us left our jobs and took leave from school to work on our startup full-time. Tuomas joined full-time six months later.

Unpredictable and non-transparent pricing

In an online study by the Finnish Social Insurance Institution, KELA, researchers asked if the participants agreed to the statement that comparing private dental care and healthcare prices was easy. Only 6% and 11%, respectively, agreed to the statement.

Additionally, 10% and 20%, respectively, agreed to the statement that there was enough price information available on the internet for private dental and healthcare services.

When we gathered price information in 2015, we found that half of the private dental companies with webpages had no pricing information available. It was thus clear that there was a dire consumer need for Lääkärihinta.fi.

Still, the problem is more complicated than it seems. Even if healthcare providers have extensive price lists available, the consumer is often clueless to what kind of tests or procedures his/her ailment will require.

The role of the treating physician is imperative in helping the patient take part in the care process. In addition to explaining what and why tests and procedures should be performed, the physician has a key role in also explaining the costs of the treatments offered. The physician has high authority over the patient, which is why patients can feel afraid to ask about the price of treatment, even if they wanted. Maybe measuring if the treating physician explained the costs of further treatment is something worthwhile to consider, who knows?

What’s next?

We recently updated our service to support foreign languages. Currently it is available in Finnish and English, and Swedish is a few days away.

Starting with a price comparison has been a good move, as we have quickly gained attention and users to become interesting for service providers. Right now, we are working on implementing online booking.

Last fall, we were invited to fly to San Francisco to be interviewed for the Y Combinator -program. Though we didn’t get accepted, we learned a great deal about how startups in Silicon Valley operate. With these lessons and by being part of Vertical we have been able to accelerate growth in both users and revenue.

During the next six months, we will expand our service abroad.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alec Hellström
Growth, Co-founder
Lääkärihinta.fi / eMedi Innovations

Alec is a bachelor of medicine with a spark for startup-entrepreneurship. With a thirst for learning and experience both from medical research and private healthcare, he is driven by the possibility of making a positive impact through entrepreneurship.