Feb 18, 2022 - Health

The Geek Squad, but make it for home care

Illustration of an ethernet cable going into a plus sign-shaped wall outlet cover.
Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The tell was a curious look on Current Health CEO Christopher McCann's face. That was all his colleague Adam Wolfberg needed to know the meeting with Best Buy was more than a casual get-together, Wolfberg, Current's chief medical officer, tells Axios.

Why it matters: As health care moves home, tech and retail giants alike are angling for a slice of the care delivery pie.

  • "There’s a very natural strategy we’ve seen a number of big organizations take moving into health care, whether it’s Walmart, Dollar General, CVS or Amazon," says Wolfberg. "They’ve got this incredible footprint and they're saying, 'Let's use it to deliver care.'"

Flashback: Last fall, Best Buy acquired McCann's remote patient monitoring (RPM) company for $400 million.

  • Before the deal announcement, Best Buy had been piloting its health care services in the homes of ~1 million seniors, CEO Corie Barry said during an investor conference in September 2019.
  • The pilot involved having the Geek Squad place sensors throughout seniors’ homes to measure their sleeping and eating habits, and having Great Call, the medical device company Best Buy acquired in 2018, analyze the data.

Details: With Best Buy's customer-facing Geek Squad and its Lively-branded fall-detecting wearables, the electronics giant was already well-suited to enter the health care sector, Wolfberg tells Axios.

  • So when Current's McCann came along with a suite of products for high-risk hospital patients seeking to have their care delivered at home, it was a natural fit, he says.
  • "For [Best Buy] I think it was, 'Let’s start with low-acuity conditions and move up the spectrum into higher-acuity ones," says Wolfberg. "I think that’s the vision for Current Health: Extending that work into chronic disease, post-hospital care and to our most acute, hospital-at-home care."
  • Eventually, the united companies will focus on shoring up Best Buy's strengths in customer support and distribution to advance Current’s mission of enabling more home-based forms of care, Wolfberg adds.

Between the lines: Big Tech isn't the only giant external industry eyeing its role in health care.

  • 202o and 2021 saw retail and electronics giants including Best Buy and Walmart transform existing assets — think mobile workers and foot traffic — into health care tools.

What's next: Current Health is expanding its contracts beyond those focused on remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices into hypertension management, says Wolfberg.

  • His research team is focused on measuring chronic care management's impact on ER visits and hospital admissions, he says.
  • "So less hospital-at-home and more routine care of chronic conditions," says Wolfberg. "We’re planning to move down the spectrum into low-acuity deployments."

Erin Brodwin co-authors the Axios Pro Health Tech deals newsletter. Start your free trial at AxiosPro.com.

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