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DIGITAL HEALTH BRIEFING: Best Buy sees opportunities in healthcare — Patients uneasy with precision medicine — UnitedHealthcare adds value-based care partnerships


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BEST BUY SEES OPPORTUNITIES IN HEALTHCARE: Best Buy is testing an in-home health monitoring service, Assured Living, as it explores healthcare as a growth opportunity and potential revenue channel, per CNBC. The Assured Living program helps caregivers and family members check on aging patients with remote patient monitoring (RPM) — mobile technology that enables individuals to track and share their personal health data — which can help the more than half of Americans suffering from chronic health conditions better manage their illnesses.As healthcare becomes increasingly digital, the electronics retailer sees health and wellness as a strategic area for opportunities moving forward, according to CEO Hubert Joly. Best Buy has expanded its Assured Living pilot in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minnesota since launching the program in January 2017, according to the StarTribune.  

Best Buy’s Assured Living could increase customer engagement with the health monitoring technology they purchase from the retailer. The program provides families with an in-home assessment performed by Assured Living Advisors who recommend the appropriate devices based on the seniors’ living conditions and health concerns, and Best Buy's Geek Squad workers install the systems. In addition to the up-front cost of the devices, customers pay Best Buy a $29.99 monthly fee for access to a smartphone app that helps seniors and family members monitor health data and activity. Assured Living's in-home installation service provided by the Geek Squad is a process consumers are already accustomed to — it's no different than installing a smart TV or connected speaker into a customer's home. This could help to normalize RPM technology.

The proliferation of RPMs will benefit tech companies and health organizations alike:

  • RPMs open up opportunities for consumer-facing companies to push into the health space. As consumers become more comfortable with self-monitoring their health through remote devices and smartphone apps, retail companies and tech giants are presented with an opportunity to leverage their existing consumer-facing products as health monitoring tools. This trend has been seen in Amazon's development of Alexa’s healthcare services, and Apple's re-positioning of its Watch as a health monitoring tool.
  • Access to more elderly patient data could help insurers and providers cut healthcare costs. Tracking vitals and lifestyle behaviors could help caregivers improve treatment and medication adherence. Providers and insurers are eager for tools that can help clamp down on the 80% of healthcare costs that come from chronic diseases, especially as the US healthcare system stares down an expanding aging population.

MOST AMERICANS ARE UNAWARE, CONCERNED ABOUT PRECISION MEDICINE: Two-thirds of Americans haven’t heard of personalized medicine or precision medicine, according to a new study commissioned by the Personalized Medicine Coalition and GenomeWeb. Precision medicine, which uses variations in patients’ genes, environment, and lifestyle to guide the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases, has the potential to drive down healthcare costs. For example, the Alzheimer's Association reports that earlier detection of Alzheimer’s can reduce the per-person cost of treatment by $64,000. But low rates of patient awareness as well as uneasiness around how precision medicine will be used are a significant hurdle to increased adoption by providers and insurers. Fifty-two percent of respondents said that the use of personalized medicine tests to deny coverage was a “major concern.” While it’s illegal for payers to use precision medicine tests to deny coverage, patient misinformation on the matter could prevent hospitals from successfully deploying precision medicine in a clinical setting.

At the same time, clinician understanding of precision medicine is lacking. Just 14% of providers would be comfortable interpreting genetic tests for their patients, according to Clinical Innovation+Technology. Still, health systems anticipate long-term savings from precision medicine. That’s why providers like John Hopkins University are developing clinical decision support tools that make it easier for clinicians to interpret genetic test data. If health systems are to realize the potential cost-savings from scalable adoption of precision medicine, they’ll need to improve their outreach efforts to assuage patient doubts and clinician familiarity.

bii global precision medicine forecast

UNITEDHEALTHCARE DOUBLES DOWN ON VALUE-BASED CARE WITH LAB PARTNERSHIPS: UnitedHealthcare signed contracts with LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics — two of the nation’s largest US diagnostic test companies — to bring value-based care (VBC) to laboratory tests, according to Forbes. LabCorp’s renewing its contract, while Quest’s contract makes it an in-network provider for all of UnitedHealthcare’s members.  The emergence of the VBC model, in which providers are paid based on positive patient outcomes rather than the number of services the patient uses, is good news for insurers — they get the benefit of healthier members at lower costs. And it makes sense for UnitedHealthcare to emphasize its VBC push in a lab setting — as much as $200 billion is wasted annually on excessive testing and treatment, according to Healthcare Finance News. For providers, the benefits of the VBC model are less clear-cut. In the current fee-for-service reimbursement model, health systems benefit from prescribing additional treatments and services. However, insurers such as UnitedHealthcare argue that the VBC model encourages a faster patient turnaround, which could lead to greater volumes of patients. UnitedHealthcare’s Spine and Joint Solution, for instance, reduced hospital readmission rates by 22%.

ALIBABA HEALTH SPENDS $1 BILLION IN LATEST HEALTHCARE EXPANSION: Alibaba Health Information Technology agreed to spend $1.4 billion to purchase several health-related categories on the online shopping platform of its parent company, Alibaba Group, according to TechCrunch. The deal gives Alibaba Health ownership of categories that include medical devices and services and other healthcare products, which generated over $3 billion in gross merchandise volume in the fiscal year ending in March 2018. The deal, which expands Alibaba Health product offerings and enables it to reach more consumers, comes soon after Alibaba Health announced plans to increase investments in AI for healthcare. Consolidating business-to-consumer products under Alibaba Health is the next logical step to shore up against the healthcare efforts of competing Chinese tech giants Baidu and Tencent.


  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new AI-enabled diagnostic software from Imagen Technologies that analyzes X-ray images to detect wrist fractures, according to Health Data Management. The FDA announced an expansion of its pre-certification process to encourage the development of AI-enabled health tools in April 2018.
  • Uber launched an in-app 911 calling feature that makes it easier for users to contact emergency services, according to TechCrunch. Uber is piloting additional functionality in seven markets that would enable users to automatically share their location with 911 dispatchers.
  • A team of researchers from the US, Germany, and France developed an AI diagnostic tool that's nearly 10% more effective than dermatologists at using images of moles to detect melanoma, according to the Guardian. More accurate diagnostic tools could lead to faster disease detection and help mitigate unnecessary surgeries.
  • Georgia-based health system Emory Healthcare and personal health platform Sharecareannounced they’re launching The Emory Healthcare Innovation Hub on September 1, 2018. With an eye toward value-based care, the Innovation Hub will combine Emory's clinical expertise with Sharecare's experience in patient engagement and personal health to develop digital health technologies that improve patient outcomes.

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