Startup company offers ER care at fraction of hospital costs

A startup company in the Pacific Northwest is offering emergent care visits to patients for the fraction of the price of hospital care.

Zoom+  now offers on-demand emergent care visits, according to Forbes magazine. It has four ER sites in Portland, Oregon. The company also offers its own health insurance to residents of greater Portland. Members pay an ongoing fee to use the ERs; walk-in patients are charged $299, including imaging and laboratory work.

The average charge for an ER visit in the Portland area is more than $2,100, Forbes notes. The average wait time to receive pain relief for a broken bone is 10 minutes, versus nearly an hour for a regular ER visit, accordign to the article.The company has also entered into agreements with local hospitals to admit patients quickly if Zoom clinicians determine patients need acute care services.

"It's not hard to imagine more of these types of ERs popping up in response to the abuses that take place at ER," the article noted. "The biggest costs would likely be real estate and imaging equipment."

Currently, as many as 70 percent of ER hospital visits for insured patients are unnecessary, driving up the cost of care. 

Among the biggest complaints regarding an ER are wait times for patients and the associated costs. Some studies have suggested that actual expenditures on ER visits are triple actual calculations because of wasted time. And many patients avoid ER visits due to the fear of surprise costs and turn to urgent care centers instead. Yet the lack of price transparency even in that less expensive setting can lead to surprise bills.

To learn more:
- read the Forbes article