“We are essentially nurturing a start-up within a large-scale organization and leveraging Best Buy’s core assets, including the Geek Squad, to incubate a new business.”Corie Barry, CEO, Best Buy
Best Buy isn’t the first name that comes to mind when people think of health care. For decades, Best Buy has been one of the leading consumer electronics retailers in North America. With more than 1,000 stores across the US and Canada, the company brought in over $50B in revenue in 2021, mainly driven by sales of consumer electronics such as laptops, desktop computers, and smartphones. However, in recent years the company has been heavily focused on expanding into healthcare, building out a dedicated tech-enabled offering for at-home care as the aging population increasingly looks to age in place. Nearly 90% of adults 65 and older want to live in their homes, which presents opportunities to introduce tech-enabled monitoring and engagement solutions.
Best Buy tapped into healthcare in 2018 with its $800 million acquisition of GreatCall (now Lively), which provides emergency response services to seniors. Their Lively Health & Safety Packages were recently updated to empower better those who are aging at home, and two new services were added: Nurse On-Call and Care Advocate. In addition, Lively Urgent Response was made compatible with Amazon Alexa-enabled devices. Now, users can say, “Alexa, call for help,” and will be immediately connected with someone who will assess the situation and get them the help they need in various situations.
The following year, Best Buy bought the remote monitoring company Critical Signal Technologies. Its 2021 deal with Current Health was a big bet for at-home services, building off past investments and further solidifying the retailer’s presence in healthcare. Current Health is a remote patient monitoring platform that major hospital systems nationwide rely upon to communicate with patients and track patients’ vital signs. The combination of Current Health’s technology and Best Buy’s size and ability to help customers with technology in their homes helps close the gap in enabling care at home.
And they’re delivering tangible results. Current Health customer, the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) virtual care program was the focus of a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR). In the study, researchers compared the financial impact and clinical outcomes at hospitals that participated in the care-at-home program versus those that weren’t. The researchers at Current Health and DHA found a 12% lower length of stay averaged across all COVID-19 patients, saving $2,047 per patient and a total net savings of an estimated $2.3 million in the first year of the program, with no increase in 30-day readmissions or emergency department visits. This vital research demonstrates that care-at-home programs can improve the operational efficiency of care delivery without harming clinical outcomes, which is essential to making healthcare better and more sustainable.
The company is partnering with several health systems, including Geisinger Health, and Mount Sinai Health System, to expand its at-home care technology platform. New York-based Mount Sinai Health System partnered with Current Health on remote patient monitoring starting in 2020 and already monitors cancer patients at home. Geisinger is working with Best Buy to manage at-home care for patients with high-risk hypertension, diabetes, and those recovering from sepsis.
And this week, Best Buy announced that it would offer technology support to Charlotte-based Atrium Health, part of the newly formed Advocate Health, for its hospital-at-home program launched in early 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Best Buy’s Geek Squad will go to patients’ homes, set up technology that remotely monitors their heart rate, blood oxygen level, or other vitals, and train the patient or others in the home how to use the devices. The data would then be shared securely with doctors and nurses through the telemedicine hub from Current Health. The tech needs previously were handled within Atrium. The goal is to eventually scale these services nationwide, including across Advocate’s Southeastern and Midwestern footprints. Best Buy began setting up virtual-care systems in mid-February for ten hospitals in and around Charlotte, North Carolina. The company said it aims to have about 100 patients in the program daily — roughly equivalent to a midsized hospital but without a building.
Best Buy is leaning into core capabilities of supply chain and logistics, data analytics and consumer wellness products. Entering the healthcare space is also a defensive move for Best Buy’s retail business, allowing the company to hedge against supply chain disruptions and increasing competition from Amazon, both of which have threatened its main consumer electronics business. The retailer expects a same-store sales decline of between 3% and 6% in the fiscal year, with most of that drop coming in the first six months. On an earnings call last week, CEO Corie Barry said Best Buy expects sales in its health division to grow faster than the rest of its business this fiscal year.
Best Buy’s existing Geek Squad customer service workforce — comprised of more than 20K agents already making approximately 9M home visits a year to help customers with tech setup and use — makes the company well-positioned to take on the opportunity in at-home care. Best Buy can also leverage existing relationships with healthcare device buyers.
Best Buy is one of many retailers seizing opportunities in the healthcare space. In January, Dollar General launched three mobile healthcare clinics in Tennessee. The following month, CVS Health announced its $10.6 billion acquisition of primary care provider Oak Street Health, outlining plans to add 130 Oak Street sites by 2026. And last week, Walmart Health detailed its plans to add 28 new centers and expand into two new states.
Remote patient monitoring and efficient delivery of medical devices are important components of home health care — but hospitals are struggling in all of these areas as they scale their program. Partnering with a well-resourced tech company is a common solution.
Watch for more partnerships like the Atrium deal announced this week in the future. These leverage Best Buy’s strengths and takes the tech deployment challenges away from already overwhelmed health system tech staff. It’s a win-win for both partners and the patients they serve.