CarePilot offers service to compare health costs

Scot Wooley began wondering a few years ago why no one had created an online marketplace where consumers could compare prices and save money.

Wooley, a Fort Collins native who now lives in Castle Rock, knew from his own experience that a person needing an MRI could go to a hospital and pay $3,500 while an outpatient facility across the street might have charged $600 for the same service on similar equipment – perhaps with the same doctor reading the scan.

That thought eventually took root, and last summer Wooley launched CarePilot, which he describes as a “more transparent health care marketplace.”

In a nutshell, CarePilot is a free online service (www.carepilot.com) that helps consumers who have high deductibles, are uninsured or just looking for the best price for elective health care services find providers who can offer significant discounts.

Wooley, 40, a former principal partner in Denver-based Health Images, said CarePilot focuses mainly on non-emergency services such as physicals, hearing tests, allergy screenings, well child visits, eye tests, teeth cleaning, mammograms and acupuncture treatments.

The providers have open slots in their schedules that CarePilot helps fill. “We basically are listing their empty inventory,” Wooley said.

“We send an appointment request and (the provider) downloads it into their calendar.”

The attraction for the provider, of course, is filling the empty slots and keeping their practices humming with health care consumers. And, Wooley said, the providers don’t have to deal with insurance paperwork because patients pay directly to CarePilot in advance.

For the consumer, it’s a savings on their health care expenses that Wooley says can be up to 50 percent but generally averages around 20 to 30 percent.

CarePilot keeps a percentage of the service fee and remits the balance to the provider, resulting in payment that’s much faster than through insurance, he said.

So far, CarePilot has primarily focused on the greater Denver area but about 20 Northern Colorado practices in Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley and Longmont have also joined.

Dr. Lee Whittemore, owner of Loveland Wholistic Health Center, said he signed with CarePilot to help market his chiropractic service.

“I think one of the biggest things was having a brand new market of potential customers we could attract,” he said. “Eighty percent of the population has never been to a chiropractor.”

Whittemore said the model is good for natural health care and nontraditional providers because “a lot of insurance plans don’t cover the kinds of things we do.”

“We’re really optimistic and excited about it,” he said.

Wooley said he expects CarePilot to soon add many more providers outside Denver and across the state. “We’re getting lots of requests to expand it into surrounding communities.

“That was my biggest worry – whether the providers would see the value. But adding providers has not been as hard as we anticipated. They see the value pretty quickly.”

Since July, Wooley said CarePilot has signed more than 500 health care providers and 100 physician offices have agreed to refer patients to it. “We’ve had a great amount of success with the providers signing up, especially with so many patients having the high-deductible plans,” he said.

“Employees are dropping out of employer-based coverage because of the high deductibles. They still need the care but they need access to the best possible price, and that’s why CarePilot is there.”

Wooley said CarePilot is initially targeting consumers who aren’t well insured.
“What we’ve chosen to deal with is the uninsured and underinsured category to start with,” he said.” The reality is it’s a huge market as it is.”

Wooley said studies have shown about one-third of the Colorado market is either uninsured or underinsured.

Wooley said CarePilot works with only certified, accredited providers who have procedures in place to protect patient privacy. Patients rate the providers and overall experience to help others make informed decisions about their care choices.

CarePilot recently received $3 million from local investors, and Wooley said the money will be used to expand the program. “It’s going to help us build out Colorado,” he said. “That’s what we’re focused on.”

At some point, Wooley said the program will expand to other states if it achieves the success he’s expecting. “I think at some point we’ll be a national company.”

Steve Porter covers health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. He can be reached at 970-232-3147 or at sporter@ncbr.com.