Best Buy and Atrium Health sign deal for hospital care at home

Best Buy’s Geek Squad will install healthcare devices that power a hospital-at-home program for Atrium Health, a North Carolina-based nonprofit.

Best Buy

Best Buy is best known for installing TVs and home theater systems. Now the Geek Squad helps set up virtual hospital rooms.

The consumer electronics retailer said Tuesday it has signed a three-year deal with Atrium Health, a North Carolina-based healthcare system, to enable a hospital-at-home program. Atrium Health is part of Advocate Health, one of the nation’s largest non-profit healthcare organizations.

Best Buy’s Geek Squad goes to patients’ homes, sets up technology that remotely monitors their heart rate, blood oxygen level or other vital signs, and trains the patient or others in the home on how to use the devices. The data would then be securely shared with doctors and nurses through Current Health’s telemedicine hub.

Best Buy began setting up virtual healthcare systems for 10 hospitals in and around Charlotte, North Carolina, in mid-February. The company said it aims to have about 100 patients in the program every day – roughly equivalent to a medium-sized hospital but without a building.

Best Buy and Atrium did not disclose specific financial terms, but said Atrium will buy Best Buy’s devices and use Geek Squad services for installation and pick-up once the patient is out of care. Patients pay for Atrium through their insurance, including Medicare or Medicaid.

Best Buy Health president Deborah Di Sanzo said that with the Geek Squad doing the setup, it frees up the doctors and nurses to focus on patient health.

“This softens that connection between technology and care,” she said.

For Best Buy, the hospital-at-home program represents the final step in making healthcare a more meaningful source of income. The expansion in healthcare comes as sales of other consumer electronics slow down.

Best Buy, like retailers like Walmart and Target, has seen consumers purchase less expensive and discretionary items as they pay more for food and housing. Many consumers also bought or upgraded their laptops, smartphones, kitchen appliances and other similar products during the early years of the pandemic.

The retailer expects a same-store sales decline of between 3% and 6% in the fiscal year, most of which will occur in the first six months.

In the past five years, Best Buy has acquired three healthcare companies: GreatCall, which makes easy-to-use cell phones and connected health equipment and provides emergency services to aging adults; Critical Signal Technologies, another senior-focused company; and Current Health, a technology group based in the UK that helps with remote patient monitoring and telehealth. Best Buy also sells health and wellness devices, including hearing aids and fitness trackers.

During 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 company this fiscal year.

However, Di Sanzo noted that the home care side of Best Buy’s health business is “still in its infancy” and its revenues are “still very small.”

“We want to do this carefully,” she said. “We want to get this right. We want to create pathways that enable home care in a more seamless way. We want to connect technology and empathy and really help change the way health care is delivered to people in their homes.”

Atrium Health was forced to begin its hospital-at-home program at the start of the pandemic, as patients sick with Covid flooded hospitals and filled intensive care units, said Dr. Rasu Shrestha, chief innovation and commercialization officer at Atrium.

He said the health care system saw the program had lasting benefits and could work for patients with other types of conditions, such as those recovering from heart disease, infection or surgery. It costs less than hospital care and allows patients to recover while surrounded by loved ones and the comforts of home, he said.

Patients in the program are medically stable, Shrestha said. Some are discharged from the hospital or go straight to the hospital-home program after an emergency room visit.

To date, Atrium Health has helped more than 6,300 patients through its hospital-at-home program, he said.


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