carollogo1Consumer-Driven Healthcare (CDHC) may not have arrived yet, but startups have been sprouting around it for a while. Carol.com is the brainchild of Tony Miller (founder of Definity Health, another CDHC company that he sold to UnitedHealth Group in 2004) and was started in late 2007.

Carol.com’s original intent was to be a ‘marketplace for care’- a place where consumers with fat HSA‘s could comparison shop for their healthcare needs. The site attempted to create “care packages” around specific conditions or medical needs (e.g. years-worth of outpatient asthma care, for example) and let consumers choose which provider to go with. Very neat concept, although in my opinion it’s probably more applicable to commoditized parts of care (like LASIK, botox) rather than a cardiac cath or appendectomy.

Turns out that Carol.com didn’t attract enough buyers and sellers to make this a viable marketplace- blame it on the economic downturn, lack of consumer awareness, or just plain bad timing. The statistics show a steady decline since Feb’08 (probably the peak of media coverage for Carol.com): 15K then to less than 5K in Feb’09.  As this article states, in late 2008 they had to make job cuts and re-think their strategy- which is since then to be a consulting and software services provider for healthcare organizations.

I doubt Carol.com will run out of money anytime soon (the website is still up for Seattle and Twin cities) given it’s founder’s previous success. But its unfortunate that good ideas like it go on life support while CDHC remains in its long gestational period. Someone needs to teach consumers how to drive healthcare… soon.

September 2010 Update: Guess I was wrong. Carol.com now has a new name (Carol Corp.) and the website no longer has the marketplace as before. It has some boilerplate info about healthcare consulting and software development services.

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