07/17/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
While waiting at an auto repair shop two years ago, Dr. Lisa Grigg was struck by the simplicity of its pricing scheme. "There was a sign listing the costs for parts and labor," says Grigg, 37, a family practitioner. "That board was being honest with me. I wondered why medicine couldn't be like that."
Grigg did more than wonder. Six months later she quit her job as a physician at Rutland Regional Medical Center in Vermont and opened the cash-only Simply Medicine Clinic in nearby Wallingford. "Welcome!" reads the sign in the waiting room. "Labor $2 a minute, small bandages $1, large bandages $2," and on, up to "knee splints $30."
That's right: No HMO copays. No fighting for appointments. (Heck, there are no appointments.) Just walk in and see the doctor for the price on the sign. "It got rid of the mystery," says Grigg, who sees more than 50 patients a week, three-quarters of them uninsured. Those who have been to the clinic, housed in a renovated 18th-century farmhouse, rave about the friendly, old-fashioned care, albeit care timed by a stopwatch. "The first time," says bank teller Lena Cote, 50, laughing, "I talked so much it cost $20. The next time I talked less and it cost $8."
And while some doctors gripe that she is undercutting their services, Grigg insists her approach is an attempt to repair the fractured relationship between the medical community and patients. "I've actually gotten tips from people who think I'm not charging enough," she says. "They're like, 'Here, you need more money!' "