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Something besides a restaurant opening on Capitol Hill: PDX’s ZoomCare comes to Broadway

With the flood of new restaurants and bars opening on the Hill, the continued exodus for existing food+drink entities from other parts of the city to our neighborhood, and some retailers giving up on the neighborhood completely, here is news of a new business coming to Broadway that won’t involve ice cream or noodles or pie or whiskey. Unless you eat way too much or have a little too much to drink and bump your head. Ouchy. CHS has learned that Hilsboro, Oregon-based ZoomCare is preparing to make the great leap north and open its first Washington-state location in the Joule building.

The move will mark the second Oregon-based entity to call the Joule home. Umpqua Bank, another business that has grown in the neighborhoods and suburbs of Portland, also opened in the Joule.

ZoomCare is part of a new wave of “on demand” urgent care providers. With seven clinics already in the Portland area and an eighth about to open, the Broadway clinic will be part of a continued expansion of the business the Portland Monthly called “a bit Starbucksian”:

The Hillsboro-based company was founded in 2006 by David Sanders and Albert DiPiero, midwestern doctors who were University of Michigan roommates in the ’80s. Together they launched two earlier health care technology companies. But their true innovation may be their brick-and-mortar operation.

ZoomCare does not release financial information. But in five years, Sanders and DiPiero have opened seven sleek clinics across the Portland area, with an aesthetic that leans more Apple Store than doctor’s waiting room. A North Mississippi Avenue location will open this summer, and a Seattle expansion is in the works. The good doctors/entrepreneurs now employ more than 80 people—including about 30 docs and RNs.

More Apple Store or not, clinics like ZoomCare are filling the gap left by the sagging system of health care for younger people, often uninsured and healthy enough that a visit to the doctor is only one more sign that age 30 (40?) approaches far in the distance. A check of the ZoomCare services page shows a pricing structure that starts at $99 for self-pay (uninsured) visits and a menu of $20 add-ons like lab tests and vaccinations. Anybody who has gone through the drag of trying to get a vaccination through a traditional doctor set-up might appreciate the idea of a simpler format.

ZoomCare is currently hiring for a family practice physician for Seattle. The position is marked as “supervising” — that’s a nod to the doctor’s role in a ZoomCare clinic: 

At ZoomCare, clinicians build neighborhood practices and have the best combination of autonomy with the clinical support of physician leaders. We want you to be one of these leaders, who develop, coach, train, and support these clinicians made up of PAs, FNPs, and MDs. And ZoomCare is coming to a Seattle neighborhood near you.

Opening in the Joule is a ways off for the new clinic. A notice of “remodel of existing building. New interior, non-bearing, wall partitions for a Medical Office” is on file with the city and work is underway in the building. Meanwhile, back on the food end of things, Blue Moon Burgers and Saizen Sushi are nearing their opening dates, joining Mod Pizza and Qdoba. You know, in case you get hungry after your check-up.

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11 thoughts on “Something besides a restaurant opening on Capitol Hill: PDX’s ZoomCare comes to Broadway

  1. This clinic will be no bargain. Medical provider’s fees are based on the length of time he/she spends with you (brief, regular, intermediate, extended), so the starting fee of $99 is probably for a very brief visit, and most visits would cost significantly more. Add in a lab test or two, and the tab quickly escalates. What if you have to get an x-ray (or even an MRI, which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars)? Or be referred to a specialist? The cost will end up being at least as much, or more, than an appointment with a more traditional clinic.

    I wonder what will happen to this practice model in 2014 when everyone will be required to have health insurance. When you are insured, the “allowed amount” for a medical service is often way less than the amount charged by the clinic, so the clinic gets paid much less than when an uninsured person self-pays.

  2. Yeah, maybe I’m extra poor but a $99 starting fee seems painfully expensive to me, especially when I doubt I’d get my full 15 minutes. Also, what if my problem is severe enough to require -gasp- 17 minutes? Do I have to pay another $99 for those 120 seconds?

    I’ve had good experiences at Country Doctor the one or two times I’ve been in a bad enough way to seek medical attention since moving to the US ten years ago. Less expensive and no time limit.

    We’ll see what this place has to offer. You’re right, at least it’s not a restaurant!

  3. and much needed here in the hood. I have gone to an urgent care place way out in Shoreline a few times and it was a pain in the ass to get there when already feeling like crap. If you have health insurance I am assuming they will just treat it as a regular doctor’s visit which is my experience with the other urgent care facility.

  4. $99+ for the occasional visit beats paying thousands of dollars a year in premiums, *if* your utilization of services is very infrequent (i.e., as is typical in your 20’s and early 30’s…especially if you are male.) If I hadn’t had decent insurance through employers and/or schools during that time myself, I would probably would have opted for that.

    Options = good.

  5. I agree the $99 per visit price is pretty high. Clincs like Qliance (which seems to have started in Seattle) where you pay a set monthly fee no matter how many times you go, seems more reasonable. Regardless, it’s refreshing to see working alternatives to the model of insurance company as gatekeeper for health care. And much more accessible ones too.

    In both cases, however, it’s not meant to replace the (hopefully) rare, but expensive services like MRIs, surgery, hospital stays. More for routine visits and minor scrape ups.

  6. All of us at ZoomCare are really excited about opening in Capitol Hill. Your comment about pricing though is not accurate. ZoomCare charges $129 a visit for patients with insurance and $99 for self-pay. The fees are not based on length of visit. Add-ons for lab tests, x-rays, vaccinations and medical equipment are all clearly published on our Website, reasonably priced from $20 and up. These costs are much lower than a traditional clinic. Feel free to call your local clinic and compare prices. Our goal is to deliver the best care, in your neighborhood, at a fair price, when you want it. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months. Regards, David Ray, Director of Marketing

  7. Yes…but….insurance of any kind is a safety net in case of disaster, and for health insurance this means the need for expensive tests or even hospitalization. At that point, spending some bucks for coverage all of a sudden seems like a great idea. For a younger person, it does not cost “thousands”…with a little research, you can find a “catastrophic” policy for less than $1000/year, which is very cost-effective for a hospital stay which can cost many times that. But, of course, young people think this will never be necessary for themselves…..think again.

    In 2014, unless the Republicans have their way, everyone will be required to have insurance, and the cost should be even lower with the establishment of “exchanges” by the states. This will be a very good thing.

  8. I have had a close look at ZoomCare’s website, and there are some very “interesting” prices there. The lab tests seem quite high to me…$20 for a strep test and the same for a “basic” urine test (which I assume is just a quick “dipstick” test, should cost a few dollars). Also, the prices for vaccinations are way-high…$74 for a tetanus-diphtheria, $300 for a series of 3 hepatitisB shots!!…you can get these for far less at your local Health Dept. clinic. My impression is that this practice model is “banking” on promoting their not-unreasonable-but-kinda-high visit fee, but inflating that significantly with add-on tests and vaccinations.

    I also noticed that they do not accept Medicare, Medicaid, or the Oregon Health Plan …so obviously they are targeting those patients who pay the full rates. This is their right, but it would be nice if they would at least accept a certain number of those with these government-supported plans.

    Finally, the way they handle insured patients is very different than the norm. At the time of the visit, they somehow determine what the insurance company will pay (which is always only a “best guess”) and the patient is required to pay the difference between that amount and the charged amount…for example, for a charged amount of $129, insurance would normally pay 80% ($103) and the patient would need to pay 20% ($26). However, the normal, standard procedure is for the insurance company to specify an “allowed amount,” which is often significantly less than the “charged amount.”…and the patient would then only pay 20% of the “allowed amount.”…so for a $129 charge, and if the “allowed amount” was say $90, the insurance company would pay $72 and the patient would pay $18. Thus, it appears that ZoomCare is further inflating their bottom line by processing insured patients much differently than usual.

    By the way, the standard practice of insurance companies’ specifying an “allowed amount” results in a major cost savings for those with insurance. Even if the company pays nothing on a claim, as for example when it is applied to a deductible, the patient only has to pay the “allowed amount.” When I had an MRI recently, the “charged amount” was $1539, but the “allowed amount” was only $463, and the latter amount was what I (and my insurance) were responsible for. An uninsured person would be required to pay the full $1539 fee!

  9. Our goal at ZoomCare is to provide the highest quality care for a fair and reasonable price when you want it at a location near you. Very few clinics actively publish their prices. You can see ours anytime online. We have adopted a One Price, No Bills policy to eliminate any confusion about the cost of healthcare and eliminate surprise bills. We have no intention of inflating the costs of tests, vaccinations or medical equipment. No bait and switch here. We are a company with strong ethics and want to change the dynamics of healthcare so the patient comes first. Our neighborhood clinics consistently receive 4-Star ratings on Yelp and other review sites. We are excited about bringing the same level of professionalism and care to Capitol Hill.

  10. David, thank you for your reply. But you really did not address the specifics of my comments…it would be helpful to people if you did so, as opposed to the generic response you gave. By the way, simply publishing your prices on your website does not make them fair…in my opinion, they are higher than they need to be, and for insured patients they are not mitigated by the usual practice of using the “allowed amount.” And, of course, there is no break at all for uninsured patients, who must pay the full amount at the time of service.

    I want to make a correction to my previous post. Apparently, the local Health Dept. has discontinued giving immunizations for adults unless they are established patients at a Health Dept. clinic. (that’s a real shame, because this was a great source of inexpensive immunizations in the past). But I stand by my statement that the prices for immunizations at ZoomCare are way too high…compared with fees at private clinics or elsewhere.

  11. What isn’t mentioned in this discussion is how reasonable $99 is for many procedures. For “highly reimbursable” procedures like sutures and burn care, you pay at most $99/$129. Insurance companies would “allow” a much higher pay out but ZoomCare has elected to flatten the cost structure and simplify the model. That’s pretty cool.

    Most other medical providers truly have no idea what you’re going to end up owing.