open menu close menu

Help Yourself: The Rise of Online Health Marketplaces

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

Online health care shopping sites are making it easy for Americans to search for, schedule, and often pay for doctor appointments and other services in a single transaction.

The high cost of health care is motivating cost-conscious Americans to shop around. Seeking to benefit from this new potential market, doctors and dentists are signing up for online marketplaces that help them fill their appointment calendars with new patients. While not widely available yet, these marketplaces have the potential to upend the traditional economics of health care, where cost is opaque and waiting rooms are packed with patients who may not be aware of an alternative way to schedule their care.

Online health marketplaces bring together providers and consumers onto a web portal where potential patients can seek specific services at a predetermined price. Searching for doctor and dentist appointments, procedures such as x-rays, and cosmetic surgery are especially popular. The consumers who use these marketplaces are predominantly uninsured and underinsured, as well as those who are seeking treatments not covered by their insurance.

Marketplaces vary in structures and features, including:

  • Types of health services offered
  • Business model — how each marketplace generates income
  • Features and customer support options
  • Pricing mechanism, including price-setting, discounting, or negotiation
  • Rating mechanisms for customer feedback

This report also includes market factors that are supporting the emergence of online health care marketplaces, as well as challenges these enterprises face.

The complete report is available as a Document Download.