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Best Buy and Atrium Health set in-home hospital care deal

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Best Buy is best known for installing TVs and home theater systems. Now, its Geek Squad is helping to set up virtual hospital rooms.

The consumer electronics retailer said Tuesday it has struck a three-year deal with Atrium Health, a North Carolina-based health-care system, to help enable a hospital-at-home program. Atrium Health is part of Advocate Health, one of the country’s largest health-care nonprofits.

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.

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

Best Buy and Atrium did not disclose specific financial terms, but said Atrium will buy the devices from Best Buy and use Geek Squad services for installation and retrieval when the patient is cleared from care. Patients will pay Atrium through their insurance, including Medicare or Medicaid.

Best Buy Health’s President Deborah Di Sanzo said with the Geek Squad doing the setup, it leaves the doctors and nurses free to focus on the health of patients.

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

For Best Buy, the hospital-at-home program represents the latest push to turn health care into a more meaningful revenue driver. Its health-care expansion comes as sales of other consumer electronics slow.

Best Buy, like retailers including Walmart and Target, has seen consumers buy fewer big-ticket 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, with most of that drop coming in the first six months.

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

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.

Di Sanzo, however, noted the at-home-care side of Best Buy’s health business is “still very nascent” and the revenue from it is “still very small.”

“We want to do this thoughtfully,” she said. “We want to do this well. We want to create pathways that enable care at home in a more seamless manner. We want to tie technology and empathy together and really help change how health care is delivered to people in their homes.”

Atrium Health began its hospital-at-home program out of necessity early in the pandemic, when patients sick with Covid crowded its hospitals and filled its 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 kinds of conditions, such as people recovering from a heart condition, an 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 into the hospital-at-home program after visiting the emergency room.

So far, Atrium Health has served over 6,300 patients through the hospital-at-home program, he said.

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